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As a wet and warm summer arrives, parasites, bacteria and viruses are thriving on farms and amongst livestock. We’ve compiled a list of resources to help inform you about what signs and symptoms you should be on the lookout for, along with disease management insights and tactics. It’s important to know that some diseases can also spread to humans; be prepared and protect yourself as well as your livestock.
When the weather gets drier over summer, ticks and worms tend to die off, however as La Niña continues these parasites are persisting longer than they traditionally do.
Wet conditions can lead to fleece rot (wet, lumpy wool) which is a perfect breeding ground for flies. Flystrike is a painful and sometimes fatal condition where flies lay their eggs within clumps of wet wool and the resulting maggots hatch and eat the flesh of their host. With recent wet weather and floods, monitoring your sheep for signs of fleece rot and flystrike should be a top priority.
Many vector-borne diseases, meaning diseases spread via other organisms like flies, mosquitos and other insects, are caused by “arboviruses” (viral infections spread via an arthropod host).
Key vector-borne diseases to look out for include:
Endemic, notifiable disease caused by the bacterium Dichelobacter nodosus.
It is highly contagious and spreads quickly in warm, moist conditions. Virulent footrot causes acute, painful inflammation of the interdigital skin and eventually becomes deep-set within the hoof. Benign footrot is caused by a different ‘strain’ of the same bacterium, and usually causes mild irritation. Footrot mostly occurs in the spring/autumn seasons but may persist longer in wet conditions.
A serious, fatal disease caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. This bacterium is widely distributed including in the gut of animals but may become a problem in some circumstances.
After a major flooding event, cattle may become exposed through decomposing carcases and decaying vegetation. Exposure increases the risk, especially in the case of a nutritional phosphorus/calcium deficiency. Vaccination is essential and nutritional management helps to reduce the likelihood of pica (gnawing on carcase bones). Botulism can also enter through deep wounds.
Can impact any hoofed animal (pigs, sheep, horses, cattle). Any minor injury or damage to the hooves can become infected by bacteria. Exacerbated by wet, muddy conditions.
Pastern dermatitis in horses is often caused by a variety of bacteria, which thrive in muddy, wet conditions. The infection can stay dormant in the horse’s skin and becomes active when the surface is compromised, usually by prolonged exposure to wet conditions.