WA Livestock Disease Outlook - for producers

In summer, watch for these diseases:

Slender iceplant poisoning in sheep

  • Slender iceplant is a small, succulent, winter-growing annual weed that is most common in the eastern Wheatbelt. When the plant is dead and dry in summer, it contains high levels of sodium which attracts sheep, and also contains high levels of oxalate which can poison sheep. Poisoning occurs from October to April and the plant is most toxic when it is dead.
  • Oxalate poisoning results in a calcium deficiency and kidney failure in sheep, and signs in affected animals include weakness, collapse, tremors, nasal discharge, muscle paralysis and sudden death.
  • Producers who have sheep with nervous signs (such as muscle paralysis, staggering and tremors) investigated and autopsied by a vet may be eligible for TSE subsidies to cover all the laboratory costs and most of the veterinary autopsy and travel costs. Speak to your vet to find out about surveillance incentives for producers.
  • To prevent iceplant poisoning, provide sheep with good quality hay when put into paddocks at risk of slender iceplant contamination. Provide sheep with a limestone and salt loose mix or a block in a container with drainage holes before and during grazing of paddocks at risk of iceplant contamination.  
  • Read more about slender iceplant poisoning.

Vitamin E deficiency              

  • Usually widespread in weaner sheep during the long, dry summer-autumn period, or feedlot animals. Sheep may be weak, lame, in poor condition or they may die suddenly when driven.
  • Lameness can occur with reportable diseases footrot and foot-and-mouth disease, so always have a vet investigate lameness in sheep to determine the cause.
  • 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.

Grain poisoning in livestock

  • Consumption of large amounts of grain without gradual introduction can result in grain overload (also called acidosis or grain poisoning).
  • Signs in affected animals include bloating, staggering gait, lameness, diarrhoea, depressed appearance, lying down, dehydration and thirst, and death.
  • You should always contact your vet if you see these signs in your livestock. Lameness can also occur with some reportable diseases. Subsidies may be available under a number of surveillance incentives for producers for a veterinary investigation and laboratory testing.
  • Grain should always be introduced gradually so that the rumen (first stomach) has time to adapt to the change in diet. Good quality roughage (hay) should also be provided. 
  • More information on grain poisoning in livestock including ways to prevent grain poisoning.