Livestock disease veterinary sampling guide

Page last updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2018 - 4:03pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has created the following guide to assist vets to collect appropriate samples during livestock disease investigations. Correct sampling will increase the likelihood of a definitive diagnosis. Include a detailed history and description of lesions on the DPIRD Diagnostic Laboratory Services (DDLS) submission form. Download the submission form and the printable version of the guide from the 'documents' tab to the right of this page. 

For more information, contact DDLS on +61 (0)8 9368 3351

DPIRD Diagnostic Laboratory Services (DDLS) base sample set 

Sample type Sample to take Storage/transport
Antemortem samples

Lithium heparin 10mL


Clotted 10mL

Faeces 10g 

Blood samples:

Mix with anticoagulant

and chill; do not freeze.

Draw off serum if

prolonged transport.

Fresh tissue

(individual containers)

Brain (swab/small section)




Rumen contents (100-200g)

Ileal content 10mL

Vitreous humour 1mL

Faeces/rectal content 10g

Fresh samples: 

Chill/refrigerate; do

not freeze. 

Fixed samples 

(pooled in formalin

- 10:1 formalin:tissue)







Small intestine

Large intestine

Skeletal muscle


Fixed tissues:

Can be kept at

room temperature


Specific disease samples 

Disease Samples
Acidosis/rumenitis Test rumen pH on site, fixed forestomach
Annual ryegrass toxicity (ARGT) Rumen content for quantitative test (exposure)
Pasture/hay for qualitative test (risk analysis)
Anthrax Smears of bloody exudate, blood-contaminated soil. Do not necropsy
Blue-green algae Water and bloom (downwind side of water body)
Clostridial myositis Fresh and fixed muscle lesion, muscle smears
Enterotoxaemia Fresh ileal content (10mL)
Johne’s disease Fresh and fixed jejunum, terminal ileum, ileocaecal valve, caecum and ileocaecal lymph node plus faeces/rectal content
Metabolic disease Pre-treatment lithium heparin blood or vitreous humour
Nitrate toxicosis Vitreous humour, plant
Phalaris toxicosis Vitreous humour
Polioencephalomalacia EDTA blood (thiamine)
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs – BSE, scrapie) Fixed brain, 2cm fresh spinal cord (plus section of fresh dorsal cerebellum in sheep)
Urea/ammonia toxicosis Vitreous humour


Additional samples by syndrome

Please add these samples in investigation of the specific syndromes listed below.

Syndrome Additional samples
Abortion/ stillbirths Placenta, foetus - lung, liver, kidney, adrenal, stomach content, skin/eyelid; dam - uterus or uterine swabs
Acute febrile disease Alimentary sections and local lymph nodes (fixed and fresh), feed (ergot)
Anaemia EDTA blood, air-dried blood smears, fixed spleen, bone marrow
Congenital defects Consider whole neonate or grossly affected tissue 
Diarrhoea Alimentary sections and local lymph nodes (fixed and fresh)
Found dead As for neurological; possible water sample (blue-green algae), plants, vitreous humour 
Genital lesions Fixed/fresh biopsy material, viral media, swabs in transport media
Ill-thrift/ weightloss Alimentary sections and local lymph nodes (fixed and fresh)
Female infertility  Campylobacter swabs, Tritrichomonas swabs, uterine swab/biopsy, fixed reproductive tract 
Male infertility Semen, swabs, fixed and fresh testicle/reproductive tract 
Jaundice Fixed spleen and liver, plants (sporedesmin, other hepatotoxins)

Arthritis - swabs or fresh joint fluid/synovium, fixed joint capsule/synovium, fixed muscle, fixed bone/joint for deformity/joint lesions

Hoof lesions - interdigital and hoof scrapings in Stuart media

Lymphadenopathy Fixed and fresh lymph node, swabs
Mastitis 20mL milk in sterile jar, chilled
Muscle lesions Fixed muscle and heart, fixed nerve and spinal cord
Myiasis (flystrike) Maggots chilled, in alcohol or formalin. Photo in situ
Neurological signs  Fixed and fresh spinal cord segments, EDTA (thiamine), vitreous humour, fat (samples for TSE exclusion)
Pruritis  Skin, ectoparasites (sheep TSE samples for scrapie exclusion)
Production drop

Alimentary sections and local lymph nodes (fixed and fresh), feed

Cows - udder (fixed/fresh), milk

Avian - blood and cloacal swabs in viral transport media - VTM (consider whole bird)

Respiratory signs Bronchial lymph node, trachea/larynx, feed (ergotism)
Salivation Oral mucosa/vesicles/erosion (fixed) vesicle fluid (fresh in VTM), feed
Skin lesions Skin/mucous membrane (fixed) swabs if mass, vesicle fluid in VTM, feed/plants (ergot etc.)
Sudden death Plants/feed, water, vitreous humour
Weakness / paresis Fixed and fresh spinal cord segments, fat, vitreous humour

More information

For more information or advice on conducting livestock postmortems or sampling required for disease exclusions, contact: