Western Australian producers are being encouraged to monitor livestock for signs of kikuyu poisoning after summer rains.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has confirmed one diagnosis of kikuyu poisoning in cattle in the Great Southern and has received several other reports of cattle losses in the region that are consistent with the disease.
Kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestimun) is a subtropical perennial grass with spring to autumn growth. It is a valuable pasture that provides summer feed, but can on rare occasions cause poisoning in livestock given the right environmental conditions.
Department veterinary officer Andrew Larkins said it was important for producers to monitor animals closely over the summer period and investigate any signs of disease.
“There have been several sporadic incidences of kikuyu poisoning in WA recorded since 1972,” Dr Larkins said.
“Kikuyu poisoning most often occurs in areas that have seen a long dry spell or other form of plant stress, followed by a large amount of summer rain that cause the grass to grow rapidly. Paddocks that have been left ungrazed prior to rain can become quite lush and usually pose the biggest risk to stock.
“We mostly see poisoning in cattle, but it is also possible in sheep and goats. The onset of illness in livestock is rapid and animals can often be found dead.”
Signs of kikuyu poisoning in stock usually appear up to eight days after being moved into the affected paddock and include unusual vocalisation, looking bloated, drooling, lack of coordination, lying down and reluctance to move, and sham drinking.
Dr Larkins said that removing stock from paddocks where animals experienced signs of poisoning was essential to prevent further illness. The paddock should also be kept free from stock for as long as practical to prevent further losses.
“Many animals will recover given supportive care,” he said. “As with any possible toxicity, moving animals slowly and providing them with good quality shade, water and hay are important.
“It is important for producers to keep an eye out for any signs of neurological disease in their livestock (diseases where the stock do not behave normally). The department provides subsidies for producers to encourage them to call a vet to investigate diseases in their livestock.
“These investigations can help producers find the cause of disease as well as helping to prove Western Australia is free from reportable diseases. Proving we are free of reportable diseases is essential so that domestic and export markets continue to buy our livestock.”
If producers notice any unusual health or behavioural signs in their stock, they are encouraged to contact a department or private veterinarian to determine the cause and limit production losses.
More information about the subsidies is available from your local private vet or the department website - ‘livestock biosecurity’ to find your nearest department vet.
Media contacts: Jodie Thomson/Katrina Bowers, media liaison, +61 (0)8 9368 3937