Farm inputs and outputs in dry times 

As tough seasonal conditions continue throughout much of the Western region, there is a high rate of movement of stock and products both on and off farm.

With this in mind, Western LLS District Veterinarians are reminding all red meat producers of the importance of keeping good records and ensuring that the appropriate paperwork accompanies these transactions so they are well placed for recovery once the drought breaks. 

Dr Charlotte Cavanagh (Bourke) - we are seeing producers under a lot of strain with the increasing difficulties and expense of sourcing good quality feed for livestock, and the stress and realities of offloading stock. As fodder supply declines and demand increases, producers may be tempted to take what they can get to get them through this stressful period. This may have impacts down the line when stock is sold or the drought eventually breaks. The last thing producers need at a local level is to jeopardise their Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) accreditation status. Red meat producers will benefit from bringing strong, residue and disease free stock through the drought to form the basis of their breeding program when conditions improve.

Dr Felicity Wills (Broken Hill) - there have been reports of vendors refusing to supply Commodity Vendor Declarations (CVD), particularly when the feeds are from multiple sources, for example with cottonseed. The recommendation is to supply the vendor with the SafeMeat branded CVD and have them fill it out to the best of their ability.

CVDs and National Vendor Declaration (moving stock) forms can be found on the
Meat and Livestock Australia website.  

There is no A or E in drought - dry times and vitamins 

When feeding during a drought, protein, energy and minerals are the nutrients most often considered, however, some vitamins must also be considered. In drought conditions, vitamins A and E can become a problem.

The building blocks of both vitamins are typically present in green forage, however in drought, the diet of most animals consists of dry forage, grains and other supplementary feeds which are low in both vitamin A and E so deficiencies can occur.

Vitamin A - important for vision, reproduction and immune function. Animals store vitamin A in the liver and can store enough vitamin A for what is needed for three to four months. After this time, if stock have not had access to green feed, deficiencies in vitamin A can occur. 

Vitamin E - functions as an antioxidant in animal tissues, and deficiency predisposes sheep to muscle damage (myopathy). Vitamin E deficiency is often associated with feeding young stock on dry feed, hay and grain over extended periods. Young animals that have had limited access to green feed, or have been off green feed for more than three months are more likely to have low reserves. Vitamin E deficiency can be seen in conjunction with selenium deficiency.

Supplementation - the most effective way of supplementing livestock with vitamins A and E is through injection. Commercial A, D and E injectable solutions can be sourced through your local rural supplier. 

View a table on when to supplement with A, D and E injections and get other vitamin information here.

Lambing and hand feeding - what can go wrong?

With the prolonged dry period in the Western region, there have been increasing reports of deaths in late pregnancy and lactating ewes. 

Just at a time when the nutritional requirements of a heavily pregnant ewe will be increasing, her dry matter intake will decrease, putting her and her lambs at risk.

Careful planning, management and monitoring during this time are therefore critical to ensuring a successful lambing. Two common diseases that can affect these ewes are milk fever (Hypocalcaemia) and pregnancy toxaemia.

Pregnancy toxaemia is caused by the use of body fat for energy while milk fever is caused by low blood calcium. 

They are both mostly seen in ewes in the last month of pregnancy and the first six weeks of lactation. These diseases are seen commonly in twin bearing ewes. 

Pregnancy toxaemia has gradual onset with sheep appearing dull and unresponsive when approached. They generally have poor response to treatment and death occurs within five to seven days. 

Milk fever has sudden onset with sheep going from being alert to appearing blind and having tremors. Sheep will respond well to treatment but if treatment is not forthcoming, death occurs within 24 hours. 

Get more information, including how to treat pregnancy toxaemia and milk fever, here.

Vaccination key when hand feeding

Sheep are vaccinated to protect against some common serious infectious diseases. Vaccination stimulates the body’s defence system to build immunity to a particular disease. 

First vaccination
  • sensitises the immune system
  • initiates antibody production
  • takes about two weeks to become effective
  • will only protect for four to six weeks.
Second vaccination
  • increases immunity to protective level
  • takes 10 days to two weeks to become effective
  • provides cover for about 12 months.
Annual or high risk booster
  • restimulates the immune system
  • provides cover for a further 12 months
  • give a booster in high risk conditions for pulpy kidney (introduction to grain/new feed). 
There are a number of conditions which occur more commonly when drought feeding, especially when sheep are congregated on small areas for feeding. One common disease seen during drought feeding is pulpy kidney (enterotoxaemia).

Read about pulpy kidney and what vaccinations are available and how they are to be administered here.

Until next time...

Thanks for taking the time to read this important animal health update from Western LLS. 

Our specialists such as our vets are always available for an on-property visit, meeting in our offices or chat over the phone, so please save their details and get in touch with them. 
  • Charlotte Cavanagh, Bourke - 0429 773 021
  • Felicity Wills, Broken Hill - 0409 858 901.
To contact your nearest Western LLS office call 1300 795 299.
We welcome your feedback about this newsletter.  Please feel free to pass it on to anyone you think may be interested. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, subscribe here.

Western Local Land Services 
Freecall: 1300 795 299

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