WA Livestock Disease Outlook - for producers

The WA Livestock Disease Outlook provides information about recent livestock disease cases in Western Australia and diseases likely to occur in the next month. Calling a vet to investigate diseases when they occur provides surveillance evidence to our markets that we are free of reportable and trade-relevant diseases.

Maximise livestock health and biosecurity this dry season – see our vets at Woolorama

Vets at Woolorama 2019
Visitors to the DPIRD shed at Wagin Woolorama 2020 can benefit from expert veterinary information on maximising livestock health and biosecurity during the current dry season.  

Veterinary and toxicology expertise will be on tap for producers this year at the DPIRD exhibit at Wagin Woolorama (opposite the ram pavilion, Site 626, Kitchener Street).

Local private vets will join Department vets Anna Erickson and Kristine Rayner onsite to assist producers with information to maximise livestock health and biosecurity during the current dry season.

DPIRD toxicology and residue specialist Martin Matisons will also be on-hand to advise producers about preventing and managing poisoning and residue risks in livestock including lead residues.

There will be an array of information for producers to take home including:

  • managing biosecurity and preventing livestock disease resulting from dry season feed challenges
  • surveillance subsidies for vets and producers
  • how to prevent livestock residues and poisoning from occurring
  • the latest information on African swine fever
  • footrot prevention and control.

Participants in the biosecurity and safe livestock feed quiz will have the opportunity to win prizes including fencing pliers.

Biosecurity officers will also be on-hand to assist producers with traceability enquiries including correctly completing National Vendor Declarations and using the NLIS database. Pig owners can check or update their details on the brands database so that they are easy to contact if an emergency outbreak such as African swine fever occurs.

Wagin Woolorama will be held on Friday and Saturday, March 6-7.

Recent disease investigations

Reportable disease ruled out in case of illthrift and deaths in goats

  • In a herd of 50 mixed aged Boer goats, six had died over a nine-month period and one was sick, with all animals showing progressive weight loss and weakness.
  • The animals had been purchased nine months prior, and were reported to be up to date with worming but had not received any recent vaccinations.
  • Faecal worm egg counts from two does showed a moderate gastrointestinal parasite burden, and blood tests of two kids indicated a severe selenium deficiency. No deficiency was detected in the older goats.
  • Testing for Johne’s disease (a reportable disease) was negative.
  • Selenium deficiency is more likely to occur in young, growing animals on deficient soils, and in higher rainfall regions. Selenium injections or drenches can be used to treat a deficiency and there are selenium-containing ruminal pellets, fertilisers, licks and blocks available to supplement a herd or flock. Consult with your vet as overdosing can readily occur if animals are supplemented from multiple sources.
  • See our webpage for more information about selenium deficiency in sheep.

Exotic disease rule-out in cattle affected by skin growths

  • Multiple skin masses were identified on the head and forequarters of four cattle at slaughter. The masses were growing out from the skin and had rounded, rough surfaces ranging from 5–25mm in diameter. Lymph nodes appeared normal.
  • The abattoir contacted their local DPIRD field vet about the unusual lesions, and samples were sent to the DPIRD laboratory for further investigation. 
  • Lab testing confirmed the skin masses were bovine papillomatosis (cattle warts).
  • Cattle warts can be caused by a number of different bovine papillomaviruses, which differ in how the warts appear on the body. It normally resolves on its own and rarely occurs in animals over two years of age.
  • Cattle warts can spread between cattle through direct contact with the affected cow and the use of tattoo and tagging equipment that has not been disinfected properly. Isolating the affected cows may limit the spread.
  • Testing ruled out the exotic lumpy skin disease (LSD), and the results will be used to support Australia’s claims for freedom from the disease and our market access.
  • LSD is a reportable, vector-borne viral disease of cattle. It results in nodules that involve the entire layer of skin. They may ulcerate, and may also form on areas of mucous membranes to look like warts. 
  • The disease can cause animal welfare issues, significant production losses and death. Infection typically causes an acute disease with fever, depression and characteristic skin nodules. There may also be a marked reduction in milk yield as well as abortion in pregnant animals.
  • Producers are encouraged to call their private or DPIRD vet whenever suspicious lesions such as these are found. Veterinary investigations in these cases may qualify for a rebate as they contribute to proof of freedom from LSD.
  • Read more on LSD in the Emergency Animal Disease Bulletin no. 121.
Image: Papillomas on the head of an affected cow

Mad cow disease ruled out in cattle with neurological signs

  • 36 cattle from a mob of 200 had died within a four-week period, and five were affected with signs that included staggering, tremors and collapse when moved.
  • New season hay had been brought in and fed to the cattle two months prior.
  • Hay, blood and tissue samples were tested by DPIRD’s laboratory
  • Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) was not detected in the brain tissues, which helped to support Australia’s proof of freedom from mad cow disease and to maintain access to markets.
  • Testing of the rumen contents was positive for annual ryegrass toxicity (ARGT) and the hay sample returned a high risk rating for ARGT, leading to the conclusion that ARGT was the likely cause of disease.
  • It is recommended that producers who buy in hay request a commodity vendor declaration that states the feed has been tested for ARGT and found to be low risk. To learn more about how to reduce the risk of ARGT in stock, see the recent media release or Facebook video.
  • Producers and vets who submit appropriate samples of adult cattle and sheep with neurological signs may qualify for a rebate through the national TSE surveillance program as results from testing help to provide evidence of Australia’s freedom from TSEs.

In summer, watch for these diseases:

Disease, typical history and signs

Vitamin E deficiency              

  • Usually widespread in weaner sheep during the long, dry summer-autumn period, or feedlot animals. Sheep may be weak, lame, illthrifty or die suddenly when driven.
  • Body stores of vitamin E decline on any dry feed, however the decline can be more rapid on high grain diets.
  • A 2000mg/sheep vitamin E drench can treat deficient sheep for six weeks. Severely affected sheep may require a repeat dose 2–3 weeks later.
  • Vitamin E deficiency is rapidly resolved with access to green feed.
  • Read more about prevention and treatment of Vitamin E deficiency in sheep.

Water quality issues              

  • Water quality can be impacted when evaporation during the summer months increases salinity.
  • Water points can become toxic with blue-green algae when the water temperature increases in summer.
  • Water contaminated with organic matter can result in botulism in cattle or salmonellosis in sheep.
  • Stock may refuse to drink water or drink a reduced amount when the water is poor, which reduces feed intake and growth rate.
  • Regularly check water points to ensure pipes and nozzles are not blocked and that the water quality has not deteriorated.
  • Water samples can be tested for salinity, pH and toxic blue-green algae at the DPIRD laboratory.
  • Read more about water quality for livestock including guidelines for water salinity by species and water testing.

WA Livestock Disease Outlook highlights benefits of surveillance

Australia’s ability to sell livestock and livestock products depends on evidence from our surveillance systems that we are free of livestock diseases that are reportable or affect trade.

The WA livestock disease outlook – for producers summarises recent significant disease investigations by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development vets and private vets. Data from these investigations provides evidence that WA is free from these diseases and supports our continuing access to markets.

To find out more about about WA's animal health surveillance programs, see the webpage.


We welcome feedback. To provide comments, email waldo@dpird.wa.gov.au.

To subscribe

To subscribe, go to the WA Livestock Disease Outlook webpage or email waldo@dpird.wa.gov.au.