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-sensitive diseases.

Recent livestock disease cases in WA

Sudden death in Angus calves in the South-West

  • Four six-month-old Angus calves died suddenly from a mob of 53. The calves had been grazing pasture. Another mob of cows on the property had no deaths reported.
  • The carcasses of the calves had bloated very rapidly and were leaking unclotted blood from the eyes, nose, mouth and anus.
  • Sudden death and bloody discharges from body openings can be signs of anthrax. As anthrax is a serious zoonotic (disease that can be caught by people), the vet did not carry out a post-mortem but collected samples and had them tested to rule out anthrax. All samples tested negative. Testing was subsidised as anthrax is a reportable disease.
  • Anthrax is a bacterial disease most commonly seen in cattle, sheep and goats. The only outbreak that has occurred in WA was in 1994. However, the anthrax bacterium forms spores that can remain in the environment and present a risk of infection for decades. Read more on our website on anthrax.
  • People can contract anthrax through handling infected animals, their carcasses, and infected animal products. If you suspect an animal has died from anthrax, do not touch or move the carcass. Contact your DPIRD field vet, who will collect samples to test for anthrax.
  • Based on the history and once anthrax had been ruled out, the likely cause of death was thought to be blackleg, as the calves had not been vaccinated. The remaining calves were vaccinated and no further deaths occurred.
  • Read more on vaccinating against cattle diseases.

Photosensitisation in 100 Merino cross lambs

  • Three-month-old Merino cross lambs developed irritation and swelling around the face, and some had peeling of the tips of the ears. 100 lambs were affected from a mob of 600.
  • The lambs were grazing mixed pasture consisting of clover, grasses and broadleaf weeds.
  • Post-mortem of two lambs and laboratory testing suggested that the cause of the facial lesions was primary photosensitisation. Primary photosensitisation can result from eating plants that contain photosensitising substances.
  • Removing stock from the toxin source and keeping them out of direct sunlight will normally result in recovery.
  • The samples were also tested for exotic diseases with signs similar to photosensitisation, including sheep pox, bluetongue disease and foot-and-mouth. All tested negative. This testing was subsidised as the results will contribute to evidence of WA’s ongoing freedom from these diseases and support our ability to market our livestock.
  • Read more on the DPIRD webpage on photosensitisation.