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.
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When 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.
Thirty 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.
"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, but it's potentially very painful, so it should be carried out as humanely as possible.
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.
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.
Many 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.
You 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.
Have 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. It 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.
You 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.
Practically 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.
Some livestock just don’t do as well as they should, even when they have plenty of pasture.
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.
Hypomagnesaemia is relatively common in cows in heavy lactation and on lush pasture (inadequate energy intake and low magnesium content).
Milk 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.
When 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 surgical procedures that make it easier for their owners to manage them - and they 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.
Foot 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.
When 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.
When 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.
Gastrointestinal 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.
Most 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.
Drench (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.
Vaccination 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.
Iodine 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.
Drench 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.
The 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.
Livestock can usually cope fairly well with either rain or wind or cold temperatures. When two or more of these conditions occur together, livestock can quickly become chilled.If they get so cold that they shiver, their requirement for feed increases hugely, and if they don’t get extra feed they soon lose weight.
Watch 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.