Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Wet feet woes

An early autumn break and persistent winter rain has created some animal health headaches for Goulburn Valley livestock producers.

SHARON WRIGHT July 22, 2014 3:00am

An early autumn break and persistent winter rain has created some animal health headaches for Goulburn Valley livestock producers.

Shepparton Veterinary Clinic’s Rob Bonanno said the practice had experienced a marked increase in the sale of antibiotics to treat mastitis and lameness in dairy cattle, while at Benalla, DEPI district veterinary officer Lee Manning said farmers had reported losses of ewes due to pregnancy toxaemia.

Cattle producers too have reported sudden deaths from grass tetany due to lush pastures.

Dr Bonanno said it was critical farmers maintained laneways and cattle loafing areas during the dry times to reduce the impact of animal health issues from prolonged wet winters.

Now that farms are waterlogged he said there were several strategies farmers could adopt to help prevent mastitis and stall further damage to cows’ feet.

‘‘The best advice I can give to farmers when they have wet and muddy laneways is to allow cows to make their way to and from the dairy at their own pace. You’re better off to walk behind the cows and leave the motorbike at home,’’ Dr Bonanno said.

‘‘If cows are able to walk at their own pace they actually select where to place their feet. If they stand on a sharp stone they are able to adjust and move their foot before there is any sole penetration and damage.’’

He said farmers could consider running a separate herd and keeping cows with sore feet close to the dairy.

In terms of mastitis prevention the best course of action is to allow cows access to a clean pasture paddock straight after milking.

‘‘Even if the paddock has water laying on it cows will graze for the first hour or two after milking. By this time their teat ends will have closed and the threat of mastitis is reduced and you can move them off to a stand-off area, feedpad or sacrificed paddock,’’ Dr Bonanno said.

‘‘The only downside to this is that you do increase the amount of walking the cows have to do. But by putting the cows on and off the paddocks you are still getting cheap feed into them, you can maintain the grazing rotation and you significantly reduce pugging damage to the pastures.’’

Dr Bonanno said other mastitis prevention strategies farmers could employ was ensuring teat spraying was providing adequate coverage and that milking machines were in good working order.

Dr Manning said sheep farmers had to be vigilant in checking lambing ewes for pregnancy toxaemia and to prevent lamb deaths.

She said it was imperative farmers provided adequate shelter to lambing ewes as exposure was a major contributor to lamb fatalities.

‘‘The boggy paddocks make it difficult to drive around to check lambing ewes, but this is still essential,’’ Dr Manning said.

‘‘Try to get sheep used to the ute, motorbike or even people walking before they start lambing, to help prevent mis-mothering due to the sheep being disturbed by the supervision.’’

DEPI studies have shown most neonatal lamb deaths are due to an exposure-mismothering complex where the newborn lamb dies of exposure and starvation.

Dr Manning said bullrushes, clumps of tall grass, trees or even man-made shelter such as old straw bales offered good protection.

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