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.

Recent livestock disease cases in WA

African swine fever excluded as the cause of disease in a pig herd

  • African swine fever (ASF) is spreading rapidly across Europe and Asia and poses a major threat to pig-producing countries that are free of the disease, such as Australia.
  • Signs may include increased death rate; high fever and loss of appetite; skin reddening; blueness of extremities (including ears); coughing and difficulty breathing; diarrhoea; vomiting or abortions.
  • It is extremely important that disease signs like these in pigs are investigated for ASF, to maximise the chance it is detected early, and to reduce the impact it will have on livestock industries and export markets. Report disease to your private vet, a DPIRD vet or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.
  • In May, a pig producer reported respiratory disease and deaths in 11-week-old pigs to their private veterinarian. The vet was unavailable to attend the property, but recognising the signs as potentially being consistent with a reportable disease, immediately contacted a DPIRD vet.
  • The first signs of disease had been seen two days before, with a significant increase in deaths and animals showing lethargy, lack of appetite, reduced water intake and breathing difficulties. The producer reported purple discolouration of the skin (see Image 1), and a bloody nasal or oral discharge in some of the dead pigs.
  • The DPIRD vet conducted an on-farm investigation and post-mortems of eight pigs. The pigs were in good body condition with evidence of pneumonia and bleeding in the lungs (see Image 2).
Pig disease signs
Image 1 (left) shows a deceased pig with purple discolouration of the face. Image 2 shows the pig's lungs with areas of bleeding.
  • At the DPIRD laboratory, testing showed the disease was due to pneumonia caused by the bacteria Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP). Obtaining a diagnosis allowed the producer to ensure appropriate treatment and ongoing management for the pigs.
  • Testing was also conducted for the exotic diseases African swine fever (ASF) and classical swine fever (CSF), with negative results.

Nervous signs in dairy heifers in the South-West

  • In a herd of 800 dairy heifers, one died and two had a wobbly gait, were circling and going down. The heifers had recently calved and were being fed silage.
  • A private vet visited the property and conducted a post-mortem on the dead heifer. Prior to death it was noted that the heifer had a drooping eyelid and lips on one side of the face. The post-mortem showed signs of an infection in the brain.
  • The vet suspected listeriosis, a bacterial infection that may occur when cattle eat spoiled silage. Samples were submitted to the DPIRD laboratory, which diagnosed a different brain infection due to the bacteria Trueperella pyogenes and E. coli
  • Reportable diseases including transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and lead poisoning were tested for with negative results.
  • DPIRD paid the laboratory fees as the disease signs shown by the heifers were similar to reportable diseases, and the samples submitted by the vet allowed these diseases to be ruled out. These results provide evidence of WA and Australia’s freedom from trade-sensitive diseases, ensuring access to export markets. Receiving a diagnosis also benefits the producer, who is able to work with the vet to manage the disease. 

 In early winter, watch for these livestock diseases:


 Typical history and signs

Arthritis in lambs

  • Erysipelas is the most common bacterial arthritis in lambs in WA.
  • Lambs are most susceptible to infection soon after birth (via the umbilicus), at marking, mulesing and shearing. Any break or wetting and softening of the skin can allow bacteria to enter and arthritis to develop.
  • Prevention includes proper disinfection of equipment and avoiding wet, muddy conditions if mulesing, marking and shearing.
  • If erysipelas arthritis is a problem in your flock, discuss vaccination with your vet.
  • Investigate the cause of lameness, particularly when more than one animal is affected, as a range of endemic diseases can cause lameness such as footrot, foot abscesses, laminitis from grain overload, scabby mouth extending to the lower legs, rickets, white muscle disease.
  • Also consider exotic diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease and bluetongue, as it would be crucial to detect these diseases early if they did occur.

Grass tetany in cattle

  • Susceptible cattle are generally older, highly productive cows in their first four months of lactation, grazing grass pasture.
  • Signs may include twitching, convulsions, excitement, apparent aggression, stiff gait and sudden death.
  • Magnesium-deficient cattle may have disease signs similar to transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) and may be suitable for a testing subsidy. See the TSE webpage or contact your DPIRD vet.

Can you spot your local DPIRD field vet?

DPIRD field vets and salesyard manager at Katanning Saleyards in late May
Can you spot your local DPIRD field vet?

DPIRD held four regional workshops in late May to update private vets about the latest in animal health surveillance. DPIRD field vets also participated in a practical workshop at Katanning Saleyards. Thanks to Rod Bushell (second left), Katanning Saleyards manager, for his assistance. Pictured are Graham Mackereth (left), Broome; Kevin Hepworth, Bunbury; Vanessa Rushworth, South Perth; Andrew Larkins, Albany; Kristine Rayner, Katanning; Rod Thompson, Northam; Courtenay Bombara, Moora; Marion Seymour, Surveillance Manager; Anna Erickson, Narrogin. For more details, see the media release: Vet workshops support WA’s high biosecurity status.