Spring keeps many sheep and cattle producers busy with lambing and calving.
There are a number of animal health measures that can help prevent diseases and losses in newborn stock during this critical time of year. All livestock require regular checks close to giving birth, so that problems can be identified and dealt with early.
Pregnancy toxaemia (“twin lamb disease”) and milk fever are both diseases that can affect ewes in late pregnancy if their diet is inadequate, or if they experience a sudden stress or drop in feed. If a ewe goes down in late pregnancy, early treatment with a calcium/glucose solution (available from rural merchandisers and injected under the skin) may help. If she doesn’t recover within two to three hours of injection, you should seek veterinary assistance and, in some cases, euthanasia will be the only option.
To prevent these diseases, ensure that your ewes maintain body weight during pregnancy, using supplementary feeding if needed. It is better to feed early to maintain sufficient body condition than to try to improve condition later when the sheep have become too thin. If one of your sheep goes down, a number may be struggling, so think about supplementing all those in poor condition.
As the days lengthen, you might imagine the cold weather is finished – but spring can bring weather seemingly colder, windier and wetter than winter. Newborn lambs are particularly susceptible to these conditions. Keep an eye out for weather alerts, provide extra feed for cold weather and keep lambing ewes in paddocks with shelter.
Pregnancy toxaemia or acetonemia is an energy deficiency problem particularly seen in cows during the last two months of pregnancy. Cows need to be maintained in good condition, and should be managed so that they don’t lose weight during the final two months of pregnancy. If pregnancy toxaemia strikes, behavioural signs will be seen before the cow goes down. Cases may indicate a dietary deficiency being experienced by the whole herd.
After calving, a number of problems may lead to a cow going down – calving paralysis, hypocalcaemia, mastitis, metritis or other generalised infection causing toxaemia or blood poisoning. A cow with toxaemia will appear depressed, with a dry nose and sunken eyes. Check the udders of downer cows for mastitis, and the uterus for tears or severe infections.
Prompt treatment with appropriate veterinary drugs and good nursing are the keys to successfully treating a downer cow.