WA Livestock Disease Outlook - for producers

During late autumn, be on the lookout for:

Below are diseases that occur in WA during autumn that may look similar to exotic diseases that do not occur in Australia. If you see these disease signs, contact your vet for an accurate diagnosis to assist future management of your livestock. This will also enable early detection and control of any new diseases that may occur. Disease investigations by your vet may be eligible for a subsidy from the Subsidised Disease Investigation Pilot Program - see the webpage for more information.

Hypomagnesaemia (grass tetany) in cows:

  • Commonly affects older beef cows with calves at foot in winter/spring.
  • Often associated with cold weather, grazing grass-dominated pastures or recent topdressing with potassium (potash).
  • Affected cattle typically found dead with paddle marks. Earlier signs include aggression, galloping bellowing, muscle twitching, and goose-step gait.

Read more on grass tetany.

Pregnancy toxaemia or ketosis

  • Usually affects late pregnant ewes, particularly those carrying multiple lambs
  • Affected ewe is often separated from the mob
  • Nervous system signs – body tremors, blindness
  • Ewe is not eating and appears drowsy or comatose
  • Death 3–4 days later

    Read more on pregnancy toxaemia.

Hypocalcaemia in ewes

  • Ewes in last six weeks of pregnancy and in first month of lactation are most at risk
  • Rapid onset with muscle trembling and weakness
  • Ewe sitting on brisket, alert but unable to get up
  • Death within 24 hours. Often occurs with ketosis

 Read more on hypocalcaemia.


Calf scours

  • Affects young calves in late autumn and early winter
  • Signs include depressed appearance, diarrhoea, dehydration, inability to stand and ultimately death

    Read more on calf scours.


Foot-and-mouth disease – do you know the signs?

One of the diseases that could devastate Australia’s and WA’s livestock industries and the entire regional economy if it entered WA and was not eradicated early is foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

An Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) 2013 report, which modelled the socio-economic effects of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Australia, a large, multi-state outbreak would cost Australia up to $52 billion over 10 years, with 99% of those losses being direct economic costs of lost export and depressed domestic markets. The larger and longer the outbreak, the increased time it would take to restore markets. As WA exports about 80% of its livestock and livestock products, it is vital that our surveillance strategies target early recognition and detection in order to minimise the impact of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

Producers are a key part of our early recognition of foot-and-mouth disease. Note that the signs of foot-and-mouth disease in sheep can be very subtle and may just appear as transient lameness. To find out more about how to protect WA’s livestock and regional industries by recognising and reporting any signs of foot-and-mouth disease early, 

Previous issues and to subscribe

To subscribe to WALDO - for producers or to view previous issues, visit the WA Livestock Disease Outlook newsletter archive page.


To provide feedback, email Dr Bruce Twentyman on bruce.twentyman@agric.wa.gov.au.