WA Livestock Disease Outlook - for vets

In Autumn, watch for these livestock diseases

Disease, typical history and signs Key samples

Slender iceplant poisoning in sheep

  • Slender iceplant can cause acute oxalate poisoning, resulting in calcium deficiency and renal failure when consumed by sheep.
  • Poisoning typically occurs from November to April after the plant dies.
  • Signs include thick, clear nasal discharge, bloating, weakness, paralysis, collapse and sudden death.
Read more on slender iceplant poisoning in sheep.


  • lith heparin bloods



  • fixed kidney
  • vitreous humour.

Vitamin E deficiency              

  • Usually widespread in weaner sheep during the long, dry summer-autumn period, or in feedlot animals. Sheep may be weak, lame, ill thrift or die suddenly when driven.
  • 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.


  • 10mL blood in lithium heparin from five or more sheep
  • Representative sample of feed (plastic shopping bag full)



  • fixed skeletal muscles. Rectus femoris, vastus lateralis and vastus intermedius hindlimb thigh muscles should be sampled to cover all differential diagnoses.
  • fixed heart (left and right ventricle and interventricular septum)
  • fresh liver

Grain poisoning in livestock

  • Consumption of large amounts of grain without gradual introduction can result in acidosis (grain poisoning, grain overload).
  • The grain releases carbohydrate into the animal’s rumen and this rapidly ferments. Bacteria in the rumen produce lactic acid resulting in acidosis.
  • Signs in affected animals include bloating, staggering gait, lameness, diarrhoea, depressed appearance, lying down, dehydration and thirst and death.
Read more about acidosis in livestock.

Post mortem:

  • fixed rumen
  • rumen contents (fluid and contents) at least 50g
field rumen pH test; a pH of <5 is diagnostic for acidosis, <5.5 is suspicious, pH increases with time so rumen fluid should be tested soon after death.