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Warning: wet weather problems

Deb Maxwell, ParaBoss Operations Manager

October 2016


Continued frequent rain events and an already full soil moisture profile in many places bring a host of extra problems for livestock.

Here are some conditions that cause concern and what to lookout for:

If predicted extensive flooding is expected to isolate and restrict sheep or goats for some weeks: prior to the flood arrival drench then move to high ground. Consider a long-acting treatment if the isolation is expected to be 6 weeks or more. For sheep consider a fly preventative treatment.

When there are expanses of groundwater, monitor for Eperythrozoon (sheep and goats). Larger populations of mosquitoes and sandflies can spread these diseases. With “Epi” handling of stock must be avoided; aWormTest should be the first action, to rule out barber’s pole worms (which will need handling and drenching). More information on Epi.

Where there are more frequent significant rain events:

1. More sheep will be affected by fleece rot and dag (due to better feed) and then flystrike. Monitor for flies frequently, particularly for body strike 2–3 days after a rain event. Be prepared to apply preventative treatments earlier than usual this year.

2. More worms eggs will successfully hatch to infective larvae. In particular, barber’s pole worm is already creating problems in the southern half of Australia, where it normally is not a major problem. Increase the frequency of Worm Egg Count monitoring to 4-weekly during these risk periods.

Figure 1. Lungworms. Source: Kristy Stone, District Vet, LLS Gundagai NSW
Figure 1. Lungworms. Source: Kristy Stone, District Vet, LLS Gundagai NSW

When an extended period of cool moist conditions occur (but mainly in south-east Australia), stock can gain a much larger than usual burden of lungworms. In large numbers these can cause loss of appetite and ill-thrift. The most obvious sign is coughing. Diagnosis is not straightforward—consult your vet if these signs occur. Treatment with a BZ or ML drench is generally effective.

Where paddocks are waterlogged there will be more foot diseases. Valuable heavy animals—particularly rams—should be kept on the driest country. Monitor for lameness and have treatments at the ready for affected stock.

Where marking occurs at this time any wounds will be a prime target for the extra fly pressure. Ensure all marking wounds are treated with an effective product to prevent flystrike, especially on the wool adjacent to the wound.

When pastures are lush and/or there are more weeds than usual:

  1. Dags will be more prevalent and the risk of flystrike greater. Crutching or breechstrike preventative treatment may be required.
  2. Photosensitisation can be more common. Watch out for sheep with pink and swollen faces. Isolation from the pastures with the offending plants is the best action, but that's likely impossible if most pastures are affected. Ideally, affected individuals should be moved to a darker area—such as in a woolshed, and hand fed till they recover, or at least to a paddock with good shade. As the sheep also rub their sore faces, they can cause open wounds which are then a target for flystrike.

And finally, don't forget those dogs you rely on for your stock work...

When floodwaters limit the dry ground around the homestead, there will be an influx of snakes coming out of the floodwaters to dry ground. Warn family and visitors about this and get working dogs into elevated kennels or temporary platforms (even the back of the ute or truck crate, ensuring they are secured there safely) or into the house.