Sheep Health Warning

Due to the current dry summer with stubble reserves becoming low on farms in many parts of Eyre Peninsula, livestock that are paddock grazing may begin to search for other sources of feed, such as weeds.
Farmers should be aware of the dangers of some of these weeds, with the common offenders on Eyre Peninsula including potato weed (heliotrope), Salvation Jane (Paterson’s Curse), Caltrop and St John’s wort. These plants have the potential to cause photosensitisation, liver damage and some can result in Pyrrolizidine Alkaloid Poisoning of livestock.
Grazing heat or moisture stressed summer crops can also cause animal health issues with photosensitisation problems observed in millet varieties and prussic acid poisoning and nitrate poisoning seen in sorghum. Blue-green algae poisoning is also something to be aware of with livestock accessing local water sources in extreme temperatures.

If you notice any of the symptoms below in your stock, remove them from the feed source and put them in a shaded area with ad lib access to good quality hay and clean water, and contact your local animal health officer, vet, PIRSA representative or the Minnipa Agricultural Centre for more information.

  • severe irritation, restlessness, rubbing and shaking of head and ears
  • swelling of affected areas including ears, eyelids, lips and nose
  • difficulty with eating and breathing
  • discharge from the eyes, conjunctivitis, corneal opacity
  • sometimes lameness
  • dead, pink and sloughing skin in areas of bare skin like the ears, face, udder, teats and vulva
  • jaundice (yellowing of skin, gums and whites of the eyes)
  • blindness or animals standing apart from the mob
  • ill-thrift and scouring
  • muscle tremors, staggers and convulsions

Farmers should also remember if planning to containment feed or feedlot livestock on grain to vaccinate sheep to prevent pulpy kidney and to be wary of acidosis/grain poisoning when first introducing animals to new grain feed, particularly wheat and barley.

Jess Gunn, Minnipa Ag Centre – 0428 103 792

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