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The basics

Livestock & Pets : The Basics

The articles below cover a number of topics about livestock health and farming. There are more articles in the other sections of lifestyle file for specific species. If you're looking for something in particular then use the search box above. If not, then browse the article titles and see what there is to help you.  If you can't find an answer here then why not ask in our discussion forums? One of the very friendly and helpful members is sure to be able to help you.

New articles are added all the time so don't forget to check back here regularly!

If any of your sheep or cattle seem to be unwell, it can be useful to give your vet a good description of the nature of the problem by doing a basic health check before you contact them.

Ruminant animals must be able to get around comfortably on their feet so they can eat.

We all have special animals on the farm. They might be dogs or cats, ponies or horses, cattle or pigs. When we’ve shared their lives and enjoyed their company for years, we get very fond of them

Stiff joints, teeth problems, loss of strength and energy. To those of you who are getting on a bit, this may sound familiar.

If one of your horses or dogs seems to be unwell, it can be useful to examine it carefully

Rabbits were first introduced to NZ in the 1830s for food and sport.

These are words to strike fear into the heart of many farmers. However, as lifestyle farmers there are far fewer risks for you and your cattle than there are for many commercial dairy farmers.

The way an animal is constructed is known as its conformation.

shearingWhen you shear a sheep or a goat, you remove its weather-proofing. After all, a fleece is warm when it's cold, it prevents sunburn on clear sunny days and it's windproof and water-proof. So shearing leaves sheep and goats very vulnerable to the elements. Here's some advice on how to keep your stock happy after shearing.

drenchingIn recent years, a lot of progress has been made in understanding how to control worm burdens in livestock. However it's a hugely complex issue, not least because of the widespread problem of drench resistance! This makes it difficult for lifestylers to know how to deal with worms in their stock.

nitrate poisoning riskLivestock farmers should be careful when allowing their animals to graze any regrowth in pastures that are recovering from the exceptional drought much of New Zealand has experienced this year – because farm animals are especially vulnerable to nitrate poisoning at this time.

sheep grazingThe word 'refugia' seemed to appear out of the blue about 5-6 years ago, and was used by veterinarians and parasitologists when talking to farmers about worms (internal parasites) in sheep and in cattle.

zoonoses,salmonellosis, yersiniosis, ringworm, leptospirosis and scabby mouth,In the third article in Marjorie Orr's series on zoonoses, Marjorie looks at some of the fairly commons diseases on lifestyle farms including salmonellosis, yersiniosis, ringworm, leptospirosis and scabby mouth, and giving signs to look out for and how to protect yourself against these risks.
zoonosesMost of us are approaching lambing and calving, and some of us are well into it.  We should be aware that there are a few diseases of livestock that can spread to humans.  These are called zoonoses, and many of them are particularly common in spring.

leptospirosisThirty years ago leptospirosis was one of the most common zoonoses in NZ with over 400 human cases a year, mainly in dairy farm workers. In recent years the widespread vaccination of pigs and dairy cattle has reduced the number of human cases to fewer than 100 a year. However there are still plenty of infected livestock on farms.

livestock 101In this article Clive Dalton looks at the pros and cons of keeping different types of livestock. If you're thinking of getting livestock for the first time, this article is a great place to start!

Acetonaemia is known as ketosis in cows and sleepy sickness (or pregnancy toxaemia or twin lamb disease) in ewes.  Acetonaemia in cows is fairly common, especially in high-producing cows in early lactation. The best cows are most at risk.

"Disbudding" of calves and kids means removing the very early developing horn base to prevent horn growth.

Let's hope you never have to deal with rhododendron poisoning.  The signs in sheep and goats include spectacular vomiting and intense pain.  A few hours after eating rhododendron, the animal is in agony, rumen heaving, and it's plastering the shed walls with green vomit.

Livestock can usually cope fairly well with either rain or wind or cold temperatures.

Good quality pasture is generally the best feed for stock, and surplus autumn pasture can be rationed for feeding into winter.

When there is insufficient pasture for livestock, alternative feeds must be provided. The most common of these is hay. Other common supplements include concentrate pellets and grain.

hayMany farmers are running out of pasture for their sheep and cattle and they are wondering what to do about it, because there’s not a lot of supplementary feed around.

fireworksThe fireworks displays around 5th November will be noisy, colourful and dramatic. Most people will love them.

skinnycowYou might well have heard of Johne’s disease, because it’s a common problem in ruminants.  But even if you’ve heard of it, you may not know much about it.

goatfaceHave any goats on your farm died after losing weight steadily?  Did they develop severe diarrhoea?  Did their condition worsen over a period of weeks or months?

Johne’s disease is a particular problem in cattle and deer for several reasons. deerIt causes slowly progressive and incurable scouring and weight loss leading to death or euthanasia.

Most animals on the farm will be lame at some time or other, especially the animals that live to a good age like horses, ponies, donkeys, dairy cows, pet goats and sheep.

ponywYou know how uncomfortable it is when you have a stone in your shoe, or an infected toe-nail?  Then you can imagine how painful it is for your horse or pony when he has an injured or infected foot.

hoofPractically every farmer has to deal with lame livestock at some time or other.  It’s a common problem in goats and sheep, and it can be a problem in cattle.  Occasionally it’s a problem in deer.

ill thrift

Some livestock just don’t do as well as they should, even when they have plenty of pasture.

sheepAbortions can occur at any stage of pregnancy, although usually only mid to late-term aborted foetuses are big enough to be noticed.

Spring is a wonderful time on the farm. It means a new crop of youngsters - lambs and kids, calves and foals - beautiful, delicate little creatures that represent your farming future.

metabolic diseases In late pregnancy and early lactation, ewes and cows are under great metabolic stress. Their foetuses grow fast in late pregnancy, and after giving birth they have to produce a lot of milk.

cowwHypomagnesaemia is relatively common in cows in heavy lactation and on lush pasture (inadequate energy intake and low magnesium content).

acetonaemia ketosisAcetonaemia in cows is fairly common, especially in high-producing cows in early lactation. The best cows are most at risk.

cowlyingwMilk fever in beef and dairy cows occurs most often in high producing older cows within 48 hours of calving, but it can occur several weeks before or after calving.  Ironically predisposing factors include high calcium or phosphorus in the diet in late pregnancy.

cowlyingwWhen cows with metabolic disease go down, it may be difficult to get them on their feet again - they become ‘downer cows’. Usually the initial cause is milk fever, then either grass staggers or acetonaemia can develop as well. All three can occur together.

For just about as long as animals have been farmed, they’ve been routinely subjected to several painful husbandry/surgical procedures that make it easier for their owners to manage them - and they may make life easier for the animals too.

Most male cattle, sheep and goats are castrated while they are young, to make their management easier.  It goes without saying that castration can be a very painful and distressing experience for the animal.

Disbudding of calves and kids means removing the very early developing horn base to prevent horn growth. It’s a procedure carried out routinely for management reasons.

facial eczemaFE is a disease of sheep, cattle, goats, and deer. It also affects alpacas but not horses. Affected stock show photosensitisation or sunburn which can be severe, and animals are very uncomfortable, irritable from the itch and obviously in discomfort or even pain.

goat hoof trimFoot problems can affect all sorts of animals at any time of year and should be treated promptly. Animals need to be able to walk to access food and shelter and an animal in constant pain is not going to thrive.

cowteethwCattle, goats, sheep and other ruminants have no upper incisors - they have a hard dental pad and their bottom incisors (eight of them) bite against that.

cowteethwWhen farm animals develop acute pneumonia the signs are dullness and difficulty with breathing (heaving sides, rapid breathing, head low and extended). Sometimes their elbows are pushed out, sometimes (but not always) they cough. But often affected animals are just found dead.

injectionWhen giving injections always get veterinary advice to make sure the injections are appropriate and you know the correct procedure. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter.  Various pathogenic bacteria are present on the surface of the skin and these may produce infection if injected with the medication. 

horses ryegrass staggersRyegrass staggers is a neurological disease of sheep, cattle, horses and ponies, deer and alpaca. Alpacas appear to be particularly susceptible.

DagswGastrointestinal worms (in the stomach and intestine) are without doubt one of the biggest threats to the health and welfare of grazing animals in New Zealand. Internal parasites live in the stomach and intestines, and they lay eggs, which are passed out in faeces and hatch into larvae.

microscopewMost adult round worms live in the gut of the animal, (usually the small intestine) where they suck the animal’s blood, reproduce and shed eggs that pass out in the faeces on to the pasture. When conditions are favourable (wet and warm) the eggs hatch and the larvae climb up the pasture plants and are eaten again by the animal.

DagswDrench (anthelmintic) resistance is a huge and growing problem on livestock farms, particularly with sheep and goats. If you have drench resistance on your farm it means that some of the worms on your pasture and in your sheep or goats have developed resistance to a particular type of anthelmintic, so drenching with anthelmintics in that drench family will not be effective in getting rid of these worms.

injectionwVaccination of ewes against the clostridial diseases such as pulpy kidney and tetanus is good insurance against losses in lambs, because lambs are passively protected by antibodies in their mother’s colostrum for up to 3 months.

iodinewIodine is another vital nutrient and a trace element, and although deficiencies are not as common as those caused by copper, selenium and magnesium, deficiencies can still occur in a few areas.

hand rearing lambs, kids and calvesIt is very tempting for lifestylers to adopt an orphan lamb or goat kid, or to buy a very young calf to hand rear. They’re often available cheap, and they are always cute and fun for the children. But they are very vulnerable little animals.

scours in hand reared animalsDiarrhoea (or scours) can be a problem in hand-reared lambs, calves and kids in the first week or two of life. It’s a lot easier to prevent scours than to treat it, and the key to prevention is ensuring good feed quality, appropriate feeding regimes and good hygiene.

microscopewDrench resistance is a real threat to future worm control in goats, sheep and cattle.  About 80% of milking goat herds and 65% of sheep flocks may already be affected, and on some goat farms, resistance to all three drench families has been recorded.

flystrikeFlystrike is a horrible disease. In flystrike, blowflies lay eggs on the skin. Maggots hatch from the eggs and eat into the skin causing sores. This is a horrible sight for even the most experienced farmer.

lambsbottlewThe day you are offered an orphan lamb or kid to rear for school pet day - you have to be very hard hearted.  You must ask the question - "has it had colostrum from it's mother, or from any other source which would be an adequate substitute"? 

How many stock should you carry on your block? This is not an easy question to answer. This is because the feed supply varies from day to day in quality and quantity, and so do the nutritional needs of the stock.

goatlumpLumps, bumps, bruises and swellings of all types are all too common in livestock.  So if you spot a lump on your horse or cattle-beast or sheep, what does it mean?  How can you tell what it is, and what should you do about it?

autumn rainWatch out for nitrate poisoning when the autumn rains come. This is when stock eat the fresh new “autumn flush” pasture that grows after a long dry period.  It is usually worst with new grass, but can happen on old pasture too.  Nitrates are broken down in the animal's rumen and cause death through reducing the ability of the blood to carry oxygen.  The animal actually dies from oxygen starvation, and it can be very rapid.

Despite welcome rain over the past few days, many areas of the country remain in the grip of what has been described as the worst drought ever.  Because of the extremely dry conditions, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is advising small farm owners to seek help and advice if they have any problems with the condition of their animals.

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