Rural

Three-day sickness can cost farmers calves

ALTHOUGH only rated as little more than a nuisance disease, livestock owners need to take precautions against an outbreak of three day sickness in the region's cattle.

District veterinarian Ainslie Lund said a combination of a mild summer last year and the traditional late summer to autumn prevalence of the disease had increased the severity of the disease this year.

She said bovine ephemeral fever, as the disease is formally known, is spread by mosquitos and other biting insects, which are more prevalent at this time of year.

"Last year was particularly mild for BEF, so a lot of young animals, which would have picked up immunity, did not get it," she said.

"The result has been a lot more older animals, who do not handle it as well, contracting the illness."

As both names suggest the disease is not a lasting one and most animals, particularly younger ones can handle it with ease.

But Ms Lund said there could be problems with breeding cattle as the fever associated with the disease can cause abortions in cows and infertility in bulls.

"There's a vaccine available for three day sickness," she said. "It's quite expensive and most of the time you wouldn't bother with it.

"But if you have breeding bulls I would definitely be having them vaccinated."

Ms Lund said the symptoms of the disease were lameness, stiff and swollen joints, fever and drooling.

"Some cattle recover without going down, others may go down for some time," she said.

"Treatment options are limited. However, anti inflammatory drugs are useful to reduce the fever and swollen joints. Calcium injections can also help to restore muscle function.

Topics:  cattle, three-day sickness


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