Byangum cattle farmer Corey Crossthwaite concerned about the effects of the flooding.
Byangum cattle farmer Corey Crossthwaite concerned about the effects of the flooding.

Livestock face toxin risk

THE heavy rain has caused all manner of problems for farmers - with some livestock now affected by a toxic fungus.

Dairy farmers, some beef producers and pig farmers have been warned to be wary of feeding sorghum crops to stock and to be careful with any sort of grain which may have become mouldy.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries says it has received a report on the North Coast of high levels of fungus-induced “ergot infestation” in sorghum. It has warned the fungus diseases reduces yield through poor seed set and causes harvesting difficulties due to sticky honeydew on seed heads.

Matt Ball, district veterinarian with the North Coast Livestock Health and Pest Authority, said sorghum grain contaminated with enough of the fungus can cause toxicity when fed to livestock, particularly sows, dairy cattle and beef cattle in feedlots.

“Such animals can have impaired milk production and slowed growth,” Mr Ball said.

He also warned “if cattle are grazing on infected forage sorghum crops they should be watched closely for signs of ergot poisoning”.

“Signs may indicate overheating such as excessive salivation, seeking shade and standing in water.

“Animals affected with these signs should not be stressed.

“(Farmers should) move them quietly onto alternative feed during a cool time of day.

Mr Ball said general warnings are also being given across the state in relation to grain deliveries containing both insect and mould-affected grain. “Such grain can pose risks to both food safety and animal health,” he said.

“Mouldy grain may contain fungal toxins harmful to livestock. “

Mr Ball said Dairy Australia had released some general advice that would also be relevant to other livestock industries:

• Inspect grain for moulds, insects, foreign objects and weed seeds.

• If insects are found, vendor declarations from the feed supplier's property should be obtained to see if chemicals were used and any relevant withholding periods.

• Grain should be stored in a dry and well-aired area to avoid the growth of fungal moulds.

• All new feeds should be introduced slowly and trial fed to small numbers of low-risk animals such as dry or young stock.

•Observe health of stock during the introduction of the new feed.

Earlier this month, before the latest floods, dairy farmers were warned the continued wet weather was giving cows sore feet from the soft, muddy ground and were warned not to hurry them.

And farmers revealed the grass, though green, had gone sour and had little nutrition due to the lack of sunshine.



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