WA Livestock Disease Outlook - for producers

In autumn, watch for these livestock diseases:

Disease, typical history and signs

Pink eye in cattle and sheep

  • Reports from producers have indicated an increase in pink eye in sheep this season. In wetter summers, the spread of pink eye may be more common due to flies.
  • Signs include light sensitivity, excessive blinking, watery eyes, eye ulceration and decreased productivity.
  • Treatment and prevention methods include antibiotics, reducing fly populations and dust/UV exposure, isolating affected/brought-in animals, eye patches and vaccination.
  • Read more on pink eye in cattle.
  • Conjunctivitis in sheep and goats can be a sign of the exotic disease, contagious agalactia. Signs of the disease are conjunctivitis, mastitis and arthritis. Always ask a vet to investigate any cases of mastitis with lamb or kid deaths, arthritis, or conjunctivitis to rule out exotic disease. Ruling out these diseases helps to support our export markets.

Polioencephalomalacia (PEM) in sheep and cattle

  • PEM can occur when there is a sudden change to feed composition and thiaminase-producing bacteria proliferate when there is insufficient dietary fibre. All ages and classes can be affected. In WA, thiamine deficiency is the most common cause of PEM.
  • Generally worsens over the course of a week progressing from agitation to muscle twitching and abnormal head position/gait to head pressing, blindness, and later seizures and death.
  • Animals treated in the early stages have a better outcome. Discuss treatment options with your vet.
  • Read more on PEM.
  • Eligible disease investigations can be subsidised by the TSE program – contact your DPIRD field vet officer. Testing for TSE supports Australia’s proof of freedom from these diseases and protects our export markets.

Unusual behaviour or disease signs in cattle? Remember Bucks for Brains!

We need your help to meet WA’s surveillance targets for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE – mad cow disease) in cattle for the 2017/18 financial year. Australia does not have BSE but we need ongoing surveillance to maintain market access for our cattle and cattle products.

If you see any cattle with gait abnormalities such as wobbling, staggers or goose-stepping, constant trembling or increased sensitivity to sound and touch, contact your vet to see if you are eligible for a subsidised disease investigation. The cattle owner receives a subsidy of $300 per animal for up to two animals. Veterinary, sample freight and laboratory costs are also normally covered by the program. 

The DPIRD NTSESP webpage explains the program, conditions, criteria for eligibility and rebates or you can contact your local DPIRD vet.

Find out the latest in livestock biosecurity news

The latest issue of DPIRD’s Fit to trade bulletin features articles on an antimicrobial resistance study underway in WA cattle, a new disease model that would be used to fight foot-and-mouth disease, an initiative to assist WA’s final-year veterinary students and a video that outlines the systems that keep WA’s livestock fit to trade. You can subscribe to the Fit to trade bulletin to keep up with the latest on government and industry biosecurity partnerships that enable WA’s livestock businesses to trade into domestic and international markets.

Feedback and subscriptions

We welcome feedback. To provide comments to the monthly email newsletter, WA livestock disease outlook, email waldo@agric.wa.gov.au. To subscribe or to see previous issues, see our WA Livestock Disease Outlook archive page.