Sheep Notes: Autumn 2011
Sheep notes is produced with financial support from the Sheep and Goat Compensation Advisory Committee.
Inside this issue
Welcome to the Autumn 2011 edition of Sheep Notes which features topical articles relating to the wet season, strong demand for lamb and changes to OJD regulations. The wet season has brought many challenges with stock health, feed management and erosion, so we offer a wider breadth of articles in this newsletter. These reflect the recent expansion of the Meat and Wool Section in DPI with the inclusion of staff working in farm planning, soil health and conservation advice, and dry-land farm water planning.
Jane Court and Robert Suter
Changes to the Victorian OJD control program
Dr Alison Lee, Principal Veterinary Officer – Product Integrity/OJD, DPI Bendigo
Figure 1: Australian OJD Prevalence Areas from 1 January 2011. The points ascribed to each of the Prevalence Areas are shown with the black, bold numbers (0, 2 or 4).
As many sheep producers will already be aware, national ovine Johne’s disease (OJD) Prevalence Areas were recently reviewed by the Australian sheep industry. As a result of this review a number of Prevalence Areas changed on 1st January, 2011. Points are allocated to the various Prevalence Areas, and these points contribute towards a flock or mob’s ABC score.
Victoria’s Low Prevalence Area was downgraded to a Medium Prevalence Area, and the Medium Prevalence Area downgraded to a High Prevalence Area. These changes were considered necessary by the national sheep industry because of an increasing number of OJD-infected flocks in these areas. The Victorian OJD Prevalence Areas, from 1st January, 2011, are shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Victorian Prevalence Areas for implementation from 1 January 2011. The points ascribed to each of the Prevalence Areas are shown with the black, bold numbers next to the legend
Because most flocks in the High Prevalence Area of Victoria will now have an ABC score of 0 (the highest risk ABC score and considered to have an equivalent risk to infected flocks), legislation has been modified to ensure equity between sheep flocks of equivalent risk.
As from 1 January 2011, Victoria is no longer legislated as a Control Area for OJD and OJD is exempt from sections 8, 10(1) and 12 of the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994.
In practical terms (in relation to OJD), this means that:
- All sheep, including ABC score 0 sheep, can be traded freely within Victoria.
- All sheep, including ABC score 0 sheep, can be moved freely within Victoria.
- All sheep, including ABC score 0 sheep, can be exposed in public places, including walked down public roads and sold at any Victorian saleyard.
- Sheep Health Statements are now voluntary for all sheep sales in Victoria, including infected flocks.
- All sheep, including ABC score 0 sheep, are eligible to enter Victoria. A Sheep Health Statement is no longer a mandatory requirement to bring sheep into Victoria.
Restrictions are likely to still apply for the movement of sheep interstate. The relevant government agency in the destination state should be contacted to obtain entry requirements.
Although legislative changes were necessary to permit the trade of sheep that are now ABC score 0, both the sheep industry and the Department of Primary Industries recommend that owners of Victorian sheep flocks continue to use management practices to prevent the introduction of OJD into their flock or to control OJD if their flock is already infected. All sheep producers are strongly encouraged to request a Sheep Health Statement before purchasing sheep so they are aware, in advance of purchasing a mob, of the risk the sheep are infected with OJD. It is important to understand the ABC score and what it means in relation to the likelihood of sheep being infected with OJD.
Producers are urged to consider vaccinating their sheep against OJD. OJD is an insidious disease that may be introduced and spread within a flock for number of years before it is detected. It is wise to consider whether your flock is at risk of becoming infected and, if so, to commence vaccination against OJD before you detect disease in your flock. Do not leave vaccination until sheep losses are significant.
For further information about OJD, contact your private veterinary practitioner or local DPI animal health staff or visit www.ojd.com.
Subsidies for investigating significant disease events
Dr Cameron Bell, Principal Veterinary Officer – Disease Surveillance, DPI Bendigo
Disease investigation is often hampered by the costs, industry funded subsidy for reduced economic value of livestock and remote location engaging a veterinary practitioner of farms. To assist this, a subsidy is now available for is in the form of a deduction from cattle, sheep and goat owners to reduce their costs when the veterinary practitioner’s fee they engage a veterinary practitioner to undertake an for the consultation, necropsy and travel expenses, excluding investigation of a significant disease event. medications. The DPI pays directly for the laboratory testing.
To access the subsidy, the livestock producer’s veterinary Where there is a genuine suspicion of an exotic or emergency practitioner must seek approval from the Department of animal disease, the DPI will lead the disease investigation Primary Industries (DPI). The disease event must meet and cover the cost of the investigation. If you suspect an certain criteria to be considered ‘significant’ to be eligible exotic or emergency animal disease, immediately contact for subsidisation. Examples include an unusual presentation your private veterinary practitioner, the local DPI Animal of disease (e.g. high death rate) or when an initial Health office or the all-hours Emergency Disease Watch investigation fails to establish a diagnosis. Hotline on 1800 675 888.
The subsidies available to cattle, sheep and goat producers For further information about subsidies for significant are for engaging a private veterinary practitioner (up to disease events, contact your private veterinary practitioner $200) and laboratory testing (up to $500). The livestock or local DPI Animal Health office.
The Lamb and Kid Mortality Surveillance Project
Dr John Ryan and Dr Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officers, DPI Wangaratta and Wodonga
The Lamb and Kid Mortality Surveillance Project is determining the causes of death in lambs and kids aged from 2 weeks of age until just after weaning in Victoria while performing surveillance to demonstrate that Victoria is free of Emergency Animal Diseases (EADs).
This project follows on from a pilot project in the north-east region of Victoria in 2008 that established a baseline on the causes of death in perinatal lambs in the region.
Figure 1. Map showing where investigations were carried out in Victoria since June 2009. The background shows the density of sheep populations throughout Victoria (darker colours represent more sheep per shire)
DPI animal health field staff or private veterinary practitioners investigate lamb deaths when contacted by producers.
Since the start of the project in June 2009, 294 (249 lamb and 45 kid) investigations have been conducted throughout Victoria on all types of sheep and goat enterprises, involving the examination of 1365 lambs and kids from a total of 195,163 at risk animals on the farms where the investigations occurred.
Most investigations were done in winter, when most lambs are present in Victoria.
Nearly half of the lambs and kids examined died of infectious diseases such as navel infections, and bacterial diarrhoea or pneumonia. The next most frequent group of diseases were those associated with problems during the neonatal period (shortly after birth), followed by diseases associated with trauma, toxicity and nutrition. No EADs were detected in any of the cases.
Figure 2. Categories of diagnoses for causes of death recorded in the Lamb and Kid Mortality Surveillance Project to June, 2011.
Some notable findings include iodine deficiency that was found in an area were it is not normally seen (see the article on iodine deficiency), and a number of cases of plant toxicities and internal parasites in the sheep regions north of the Great Dividing Range.
The information gained from this project is used to develop a baseline description of the causes of deaths in lambs and kids on properties across Victoria, while also considering seasonal and regional variations. By establishing the causes of death, advice will be made available to producers to allow control or treatment measures to be adopted to decrease deaths and improve productivity.
Using this baseline of data, continued surveillance of lamb mortalities will allow the more rapid and accurate detection of new diseases, or the spread of endemic diseases from where they usually occur in the Victorian sheep flock.
This project will continue until June, 2012; any producers wishing to have deaths in their lambs or kids investigated this year can contact their local DPI animal health staff (see the listing on page 14) or their private veterinary practitioner. The project provides for a free post-mortem examination with appropriate laboratory testing and the provision of a written report.
Joining ewe lambs
Darren Hickey, Sheep Industry Officer, DPI, Bairnsdale
Is it possible to increase profitability in your sheep enterprise by joining ewe lambs between 7–10 months of age? Joining ewe lambs is a topic of national interest to sheep producers as the industry rebuilds to meet domestic and international demand for Australian sheep and lamb products.
To achieve this successfully, you will need top management, nutrition and genetics, and is only worth considering if you have already optimised the key profit drivers of reproductive performance in your flock. Before looking at joining lambs, you may find that there is greater economic benefit in improving fertility rates in your existing adult breeders; for example, by tackling conception rates and twin lamb survival.
The potential benefits to your business by joining your ewe lambs may include lower overall costs of production, faster genetic gain (due to lower generation interval), greater options in terms of being able to sell older females and more rapid flock rebuilding. Many producers have tried joining ewe lambs with disappointing results: to avoid disappointment you must follow the maiden ewe management guidelines (such as those available at Lifetime Wool) and understand the genetic and physical potential of your flock in your environment.
A study was conducted in 2010 by the EverGraze® project at the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Hamilton, where composite ewe lambs were joined at 7–8 months of age. Following is a brief summary of some of the key management actions:
- The target joining weight was 45 kg. To achieve this, the August 2009 born lambs had access to good quality nutrition from weaning in November to joining in April. This feeding regime featured a summer-active perennial pasture combined with a two-stage barley supplement. It is important to introduce grain gradually to the diet of a ruminant to prevent grain poisoning. The lambs then had access in March to lucerne, plantain and perennial ryegrass pastures.
- Lambs were joined during the peak breeding season and in condition score 3 while they were still growing and putting on weight.
- Rams were joined at 3% for 6 weeks or two to three oestrous cycles. LAMBPLAN breeding values (ASBVs) for low birth weight (BWT) were used in the selection of rams to reduce lambing problems from large lambs.
- Ewe lambs were pregnancy scanned at 7 weeks after joining to identify and sell off dry ewes. The conception rate was 140%.
- Good nutrition was available during pregnancy and lactation (i.e. greater than 1500 kgDM/ha green feed) so that ewes had enough energy to grow, as well as support the development of her own lamb.
- A weaning rate of 116% (lambs weaned per ewe joined) was
achieved. Some important things to note about joining ewe lambs:
- There is no evidence to support the idea that joining ewes at a young age has a permanent detrimental effect on ewes that will reduce their reproductive performance later in life.
- Sexual maturity of the ewe lamb is dependent more on weight than age. The generally used target weight for joining ewe lambs at 7–8 months of age is 40–45 kg. All flocks are different, so monitoring both the live-weight and condition score of your own sheep is important to determine the sexual maturity of your ewe lambs being considered for joining.
- Know the breeding season of your flock: some breeds are more seasonal breeders than others. Although Merinos are perhaps the least seasonal, they still have an optimal joining period (i.e. autumn). Joining out of season can result in disappointing pregnancy rates.
- Aim to wean lambs at 12 weeks to allow the yearling ewes the most amount of time to recover and gain condition for their second joining.
Remember that joining ewe lambs as a means to increasing profits in a lamb production system should come after other profit drivers such as weaning rates, pasture utilisation and the matching up the right lamb turn-off system to ewe genotype (breed) have been considered and optimised (Young et al. 2010). This study showed that there is the potential to increase profits by $100/ha by joining lambs at 7 months of age. However, even greater potential profit increases are possible if the higher priority production parameters in the enterprise are optimised first. That is, using existing pastures better and improving existing reproductive performance in the flock may deliver the profit improvements you are after, before taking on something riskier like joining your ewe lambs.
Ewe lambs grazing a green summer pasture of lucerne to ensure they reach mating weight
For some producers, joining ewe lambs will be more of an opportunistic tactic to increase flock productivity in years when the season allows it. For others, particularly those who have established summer-active perennial pastures to fill summer feed gaps, having their ewes lambing at 12–14 months of age is a regular part of their program. Why not investigate it further? There are several ways to learn more, some excellent sources are:
- Sheep Notes Spring 2009 “Ewe management and condition scoring” available at http://new.dpi.vic.gov.au/ agriculture/beef-and-sheep/sheep-notes
- LifetimeWool: www.lifetimewool.com.au . Sheep CRC: www.sheepcrc.org.au , Meat and Livestock Australia: www.mla.com.au and EverGraze®. www.evergraze.com.au
- Nationally accredited training through Rural Industry Skills Training (RIST): see www.rist.com.au . Consider a “Lifetime Ewe Management” or “High Performance Weaners” course. Contact RIST on (03) 5573 0943
Cameron, F., Kelly, M., Behrendt, R., 2010 Joining Ewe Lambs – Money For Lamb. DPI Hamilton. Ryan, J., Sanford., P. Joining ewes at 7 months of age – the possible role of summer active perennial pastures. Department of Agriculture and Food, Albany, Western Australia.
Young, J.M., Thompson, A.N., Kennedy, A.J. (2010) Bioeconomic modelling to identify the relative importance of a range of critical control points for prime lamb production systems in south-west Victoria. Animal Production Science 50 748–746. CSIRO Publishing.
Reported cases of iodine deficiency in Victoria in 2010
Dr John Ryan and Dr Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officers, DPI Wangaratta and Wodonga
During 2010, a number of cases of iodine deficiency (or normal May–June period. Consequently, cases this year were goitre) have been investigated through the Lamb and Kid reported from early winter (the earliest reported case was
Mortality Surveillance Project (Figure 1).
Goitre is characterised by neonatal deaths in lambs and kids with swelling under the front part of the neck.
Goitre also presents with a range of other signs including:
- abnormal fleeces; lambs with sparse silky wool and kids form of goitre has been reported in sheep, goats and cattle, with a sparse, coarse coat
- sluggish movements
- difficulty in breathing and cyanotic (blue) gums
- reduced ability or inability to suckle
- droopy ears
- death despite treatment
Historically, the disease peaks in years with higher than average rainfall across the May/June/July period, with cases being reported in late winter/ early spring. In 2010 increased rainfall began in February through into the normal May - June period. Consequently, cases this year were reported from early winter (the earliest reported case was June) through to the normal peak period.
There is often a history of the ewes and does accessing lush clover (with white clover commonly implicated), ryegrass or Brassica plant species (such as turnips or rape) containing goitrogens (substances that induce goitre). An inherited form of goitre has been reported in sheep, goats and cattle, but it is rare.
Recent work has suggested that goitre is due to a reduced intake of soil because of the lush pasture conditions. This possibly explains why goitre is uncommon in cattle because they ingest soil when eating, by pulling up grass and its roots. One case investigated a large number of goitrous lambs from ewes run on lower paddocks with lush and fastaverage growing pastures, whereas no cases were reported in lambs born on the same property’s higher paddocks where feed was shorter and more fibrous.
Figure 1. Map of Victoria showing locations of reported cases of iodine deficiency in 2010.
Cases of goitre can be prevented through the use of iodine supplements – potassium iodide orally, or iodised salts and licks from the third month of pregnancy.
For more information on iodine deficiency and goitre contact Dr John Ryan at DPI Wangaratta or email@example.com. au or Dr Jeff Cave at DPI Wodonga or firstname.lastname@example.org. au
Editors note. 2010 may not be the only year we see goitre. The heavy rainfall over summer 2010–11 could mean that 2011 autumn-born lambs are at risk of developing goitre. If you are concerned, then a drench of iodine to the ewes during pregnancy will reduce that risk. Check your lambs at birth for a swelling on the underside of their neck – if detected at that age, then treatment can be successful. Seek veterinary advice if you are concerned that iodine deficiency may be affecting your lambs.
Farm planning – confidence for the 21st century
Lauren Gretgrix and Martin Hamilton, Project Officers – Whole Farm Planning, DPI Bendigo
A variable climate and rapid technological changes in agriculture have left many farming families asking, ‘Where do we go from here?’ The State Government of Victoria – through the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) – provides a range of services to the sheep industry to support development, including farm planning services.
FarmPlan21 is DPI’s integrated farm planning service that is now available to all farmers across Victoria to help you realise your personal, environmental, financial and farming goals.
FarmPlan21 is a popular service because it uses facilitators to determine individual farmer’s goals and identify the relevant skills and knowledge required. From this, they then develop specific farm business strategies by designing tailored services using technical experts from multiple agencies.
FarmPlan21 can cover topics such as the farm’s future, management of natural resources, farm plan design, setting goals and achieving outcomes. Computer-based mapping, using the most up-to-date digital aerial imagery, can be included.
FarmPlan21 services include:
- short courses – to raise awareness of land management and farming issues
- level 1 accredited courses – to develop land management strategies that deal with profitability and environmental goals
- level 2 and 3 workshops – offering more detailed training about specific farm management issues identified in the level 1 course (e.g. adapting to low water allocations and climate risk)
- follow up reviews – a service offered to FarmPlan21 participants to support their ongoing property planning needs.
Whether a farm is less than 5 hectares or over 500 hectares, facilitators can modify these services to suit an individual farm’s needs and will work around farming work schedules. To date, more than 700 farm plans have been developed, which cover over 240,000 hectares of farming land across Victoria.
Opportunities are also available to join in local farm field days and undertake assessment towards diplomas in agriculture, conservation and land management, and production horticulture.
For more information about FarmPlan21 services, contact Jenny Wilson, FP21 Project Leader (03) 5833 5248 or email email@example.com
Results from the 2009/10 Livestock Farm Monitor Project
Jonathon Tocker and Tony Berrisford, Farm Business Economists, DPI Ballarat and Ellinbank
DPI’s Livestock Farm Monitor Project has shown increases in farm profitability for livestock producers and wool growers across most of Victoria during 2009–10 due to improved seasonal and market conditions. Across the enterprise types, increases in sheep meat and wool prices, stable beef prices and a return to average rainfall underpinned the increases recorded.
The Livestock Farm Monitor Project reports on wool, prime lamb and beef production and profitability in the regions of Gippsland, north-east and south-west Victoria and is the successor to the long-running South West Farm Monitor Project and the Sheep Farm Monitor Project. In 2009–10, 69 wool, 65 prime lamb and 66 beef enterprises participated in the survey.
Whole farm profitability increased by about $100/hectare across all three regions surveyed, to $210 per effective hectare in the south-west, $82 in the north-east and $59 in Gippsland. Similarly, all regions showed increases in the average return on equity, with the biggest increase reported for Gippsland.
There was a marked variation in rainfall among participants in the Gippsland and north-east regions. This influenced financial returns, particularly in Gippsland, where farmers in the higher rainfall area of south-west Gippsland had better returns than those in the lower rainfall area of east Gippsland. However, the top 20% of producers were located in both high and low rainfall areas.
The most significant influence on the gain in sheep enterprise profitability was in livestock sale prices, which were up by an average of $22 per head on the previous year. The cost of production was influenced by total production, with wool production per hectare remaining relatively stable across the state and so the cost of production cost remained constant. The general increase in lamb production per hectare resulted in a reduced cost of production for those enterprises, and wool production had an important role to increase profitability in some prime lamb operations. Lamb production was a stand out performer across all regions, with the top 20% of producers within each region tending to have a large proportion of their income come from prime lamb production.
|Gippsland||North East||South West|
|Average||Top 20%||Average||Top 20%||Average||Top 20%|
|Wool Sheep Stocking Rate (dse/ha)
Wool Sheep Gross Margin ($/ha)
|Prime Lamb Stocking Rate (dse/ha)
Prime Lamb Gross Margin ($/ha)
|Beef Cattle Stocking Rate (dse/ha)
Beef Cattle Gross Margin ($/ha)
For further information on the Livestock Farm Monitor Project, contact Jonathon Tocker 5336 6633; Tony Berrisford 5624 2326; or go to www.dpi.vic.gov.au
Are sheep suited to your smaller farm?
David Stewart, Project Leader – Small Landholder Information Service, DPI Frankston
New landholders on smaller properties are often confronted with their first experience of buying and being responsible for grazing livestock. This is very much part of the appeal of moving to a rural location and becoming connected with a new way of life in a farming environment.
Because sheep are smaller and appear easier to handle than cattle, the less-experienced person may see the introduction of sheep as an easy first step; in many cases, sheep are suitable livestock to run, but not always. This article describes a number of the considerations for anyone about to purchase some sheep for their small property.
Is the climate going to be a suitable for the breed of sheep I’m considering?
- Most sheep growing regions tend to be in the medium to lower rainfall zones; only a few breeds are suitable for grazing in higher rainfall areas. These tend to be either British breeds or crossbred sheep involving a British breed. Low maintenance breeds such as Dorpers may also be an option. Only some of the very fine wool strains of Merino sheep are suited to the higher rainfall areas.
- Do you see other people running these breeds, or any sheep at all? Contact any local sheep owners and learn of their experiences with raising sheep in the area.
Does the property have the necessary minimum facilities to handle sheep?
- You will need to check boundary fencing to be sure you can contain your sheep and also keep unwanted animals from wandering onto your land. Pay particular attention to roadside boundary fencing to ensure that your sheep will not be able escape and pose a risk to passing traffic.
- Are all paddocks supplied with a reliable source of suitable water and can sheep access it? Some properties may have troughs suitable for cattle, but they may be too high for smaller sheep to reach. Similarly, some farm dams can be very boggy around the edge of the water and sheep can become stuck in the mud.
- Do you have yards in which you can hold and work on sheep and is there an adjoining shed you can use or adapt for crutching and shearing? Portable yards can be useful for this purpose, if you can access them.
- Is the district serviced by local shearers and are they interested in shearing your sheep? Can they provide the shearing and wool handling equipment you need for the job? Your discussion with other sheep owners will hopefully answer that question.
- Is there any storage for either grain or hay and do you have the equipment to feed out fodder to your animals?
Do you have the skills to manage the sheep’s welfare?
- Do you have the animal husbandry knowledge to look after the sheep’s welfare, provide adequate nutrition, identify disease problems, and administer veterinary chemicals when necessary?
- Do you have the necessary equipment to administer these veterinary chemicals and does the number of animals you intend to run justify the sorts of quantities (usually sold in quantities for larger enterprises) and the expense these veterinary chemicals may involve?
- Will there be someone around every couple of days to monitor the sheep’s welfare? This may be necessary every day if ewes are lambing or in hot summer weather to check on water supplies. You may be able to share this responsibility in a reciprocal arrangement with your neighbour.
- Are there enough paddocks when you need to separate different animals such as lambs from ewes or rams from ewes? The more paddocks available, the easier it is to have some management over the grazing pressure on pastures.
Are wild or roaming dogs a threat?
• If your property is on the edge of a national park or adjacent to built up urban areas near country towns, dog attacks may be a problem. Check with your neighbours to see if they are successfully running sheep or if they know of any ongoing problems. If you can’t see other farmers grazing sheep in your district, then there may be a good reason.
How do you plan to market your sheep or lambs?
• When you do want to sell some animals how close is the nearest saleyard and can a local livestock carrier safely access your yards to transport them? In recent years, many smaller local saleyard facilities have disappeared and producers now have to transport animals to the major regional centres. Talk to a local livestock selling agent for more information.
All of this may sound a bit daunting, but every prospective sheep owner needs to consider these matters before they decide on which grazing alternative best suits them.
For more information contact David Stewart on 0419116759 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reducing weaner ill-thrift
Dr Angus Campbell, veterinarian, Mackinnon Project and Robert Suter, Disease Surveillance Project Leader – Sheep, DPI Camperdown
Weaner ill-thrift is recognised as one of the economically important diseases of sheep, particularly of Merino sheep. DPI has provided financial support to the Mackinnon Project to survey and research this disease, led by Dr Campbell.
‘Weaner ill-thrift’ is a syndrome (a collection of problems) in which weaners fail to thrive and/or die, while other sheep on the farm are performing well. It is very common throughout Australia. Weaner ill-thrift is likely to be a major problem this year in Victoria, with significant mortality and production problems. It is critical that producers understand why ill-thrift occurs, and how to detect and prevent it.
Many different diseases can contribute to ill-thrift, but inadequate energy and/or protein intake is often a major component of the disorder. Weaners are growing animals so have more specific nutritional requirements than adult sheep, with less tolerance of substandard feeds or malnutrition. This can occur especially when grazing pastures of declining quality over summer and autumn in southern Australia.
Weaner sheep need more concentrated feed than adults, partly because they are smaller animals with smaller rumens but they need to continue growing. They require feed containing more than about 8 megajoules of metabolisable energy and at least 12–14% crude protein, with smaller or younger lambs needing even more crude protein content in their diet. Green pasture, even a pick, will provide sufficient protein for the needs of weaners.
Properly fed, heavier weaners have more fat reserves and can better withstand diseases that could cause ill-thrift. When weaners stop growing (accumulating body reserves), they are at dramatically greater risk of dying, or of suffering from poor production: e.g. producing tender wool or missing carcase weight targets. Previous research has shown that weaners less than about half of their mature weight are at significantly greater risk of dying in the first year of life. Even heavy weaners that do not keep growing (by least 0.5–1 kg/ month) after weaning are also more likely to suffer problems, including increased mortality. Ensuring that weaners keep growing will reduce the risk of weaner ill-thrift: increasing the growth rate in lightweight weaners will reduce their risk of ill-thrift and death.
Infectious disease is also a common component of weaner ill-thrift. Weaners are often more susceptible to infections than adults—particularly worms—because of their immature immune systems. In a wet season such as this, worms will be plentiful over the coming months.
Despite abundant pasture across much of south-eastern Australia, in many areas it is now long, rank and largely unsuitable for growing weaner sheep. Weaner mobs across Victoria are already encountering significant challenges and it is likely this will continue into autumn. Under similar conditions during the summer of 2001–02, many properties experienced considerable weaner losses from ill-thrift when pastures matured very quickly and feed quality dropped below that needed by weaner sheep.
This season, sheep in south-eastern Australia are facing a severe, ongoing fly wave and significant worm problems. Past experience has shown that 5–10% of weaners can be lost through flystrike in bad fly seasons.
Because malnutrition is nearly always a central part of any case of weaner ill-thrift, nutritional management of weaners through the next four months will be critical. It will be essential to yard weaners monthly to weigh and count them to make rational feeding decisions and to detect developing health problems early. Just looking at weaners is not accurate enough to detect important weight changes, and dead weaners may be overlooked in long, rank feed.
Preventing weaner ill-thrift:
- Draft off the lightest quarter of weaners and provide them with the best feed you can (see below).
- Weigh a sample of weaners every month (80 is sufficient). Weaners need to reach 22–25 kg (45% of their mature weight) as soon as possible after weaning to accumulate vital fat reserves, and then grow at about 1 kg/month thereafter. If these targets are not met, commence supplementary feeding.
- Monitor and control the major parasitic diseases: worms and flies.
- Appropriate nutritional sources include (in order of preference):
- Fodder crops or short, green pasture. Use these for the lightest weaners.
- Slashing rank paddocks may be worthwhile.
- Cereal stubbles, when available, may also be worthwhile but ongoing weight monitoring will be essential.
- Otherwise, feed a concentrated energy source such as cereal grains (oats, barley or wheat).
− Grain feeding needs to be introduced slowly over 3 weeks to reduce the risk of acidosis occurring − factor this time into decisions about when to start feeding. Nearly half the deaths in last summer’s survey were due to acidosis. Consider this, too, before grazing stubbles. − If there isn’t a green pick available, use either a legume or lucerne hay as 20% of the ration to provide sufficient protein.
- Hays, particularly weather-damaged hay, and many types of silage, do not have enough energy for the needs of weaner sheep.
For further information on the managing weaner ill-thrift contact Angus Campbell at the Mackinnon Project on (03) 9731 2225 or email email@example.com
Sentinel Flock Project – two lambing seasons on
Linda Fahy, Disease Surveillance Project Leader – Sheep, DPI Ballarat and Garry Armstrong, Project Leader SFP, DPI Echuca
The Sentinel Flock Project (SFP) continued to monitor 18 sheep flocks and two goat herds across Victoria throughout 2010. The participating farms are distributed across the state and, between them, run over 45,000 ewes and 1,700 does.
Since the beginning of the project, in autumn 2009, over 2158 investigations or examinations have been performed by DPI Animal Health and Meat and Wool staff on the participating farms.
|No. lamb/kid mortalities investigated||No. adult* mortalities investigated||No. ram/ buck fertility examinations||Total|
Figure 3. Average condition score of ewes and does recorded on the 20 participating Sentinel Flocks in 2009 and 2010
The most common cause of perinatal mortality recorded was the starvation mismothering and exposure complex of diseases (940 cases or 58 %) (Figure 1). These animals were identified as having walked and breathed, but have not fed sufficiently to survive.
The predominant causes of death in adult sheep are related to either dietary intake (grain overload or toxic plant ingestion), or diseases that occur at lambing time (obstetrical problems and the metabolic diseases hypocalcaemia and pregnancy toxaemia) (Figure 2).
Two properties identified as marginally deficient for some trace minerals by testing in 2009 were retested in late spring 2010. Supplementary treatment is obviously having an effect on these properties because no deficiencies were observed in follow up tests.
Significant rain and flooding towards the end of 2010 and early 2011 is causing difficulties on farm. Flystrike has been identified in four of the 20 flocks and issues with foot abscess and footrot continue on three flocks due to the moist humid conditions.
Five flocks have completed a Faecal Egg Count Reduction Test (drench test) and all tests analysed have reported resistance to one or more drench groups.
DPI Industry Development Officers have completed regular weighing of lambs and condition scoring of ewes and does since the start of the project in 2009. The majority of flocks have reported significant good quality feed in spring 2010 with improvements in weaner weights and overall ewe nutrition. During 2009, the average condition score of ewes and does was 2.7 while in 2010 the average condition score was 3.0 (Figure 3).
Figure 4. Results of pregnancy scanning averaged across the Sentinel Flocks for 2009 and 2010
During 2010, reproductive data from scanning of pregnant ewes and does was collected from each of the 20 farms (Figure 4). Improved seasonal conditions in 2010 have had a positive affect on conception rates and the number of twinbearing ewes.
Already, progress in improved livestock performance has been observed as a result of the project and we look forward to continuing the work on the Sentinel Flock Project in 2011, for the third lambing season.
For more information on the Sentinel Flock Project, contact either of the Project Leaders: Linda Fahy on 03 5336 6629 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Garry Armstrong on 03 5482 0421 or email email@example.com.
Livestock Management Act – an innovative approach to livestock regulation in Victoria
Dr David Champness, Principal Veterinary Officer – Livestock Management Standards, DPI Hamilton and Michelle Edge,
former Principal Officer, DPI Melbourne
The Livestock Management Act 2010, passed by the Victorian Parliament last year, provides a platform that will be used in the future to underpin contemporary standards developed for livestock management, biosecurity, identification and traceability.
Although the Livestock Management Act 2010 provides for the traditional approach to enforcement via inspection, the Act also provides for a second enforcement mechanism – a coregulatory compliance option.
This second approach will formally recognise commercial and existing industry managed compliance arrangements, including those quality assurance (QA) programs that have shown the ability to successfully demonstrate participant compliance with applicable Standards.
The Act will benefit industry because it expressly provides for co-regulation, thus reducing the compliance burden. It is highly adaptable to future changes by being able to integrate new techniques, issues and systems, and is designed to promote continuous improvement within industry production
systems and supply chains. Animal Health Australia, under the context of the ‘Australian Animal Welfare Strategy’, is coordinating the development of contemporary livestock management standards. These nationally agreed Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines will replace the existing model codes of practice for each livestock species.
The preparation of Regulations under the Livestock Management Act 2010 to support the Standards already finalised is now underway in Victoria in consultation with industry. The first of the new national Standards and Guidelines relate to the land transport of livestock and the production of pigs.
For more information about the Livestock Management Act 2010, contact Dr David Champness on 03 5573 0900 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Update on the National Livestock Identification System – NLIS (Sheep & Goats)
Peter Corbet, Senior NLIS Officer, DPI Geelong
The National Livestock Identification System (Sheep & Goats) is Australia’s system for identifying and tracking sheep and goats for disease control, food safety and market access purposes.
Australia needs an effective tracking system for sheep and goats to enable diseases that affect trade, such as anthrax and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), to be contained and promptly eradicated in the event of an outbreak.
Most sheep and goats in Victoria are identified with an NLIS (Sheep) tag when they are traded. However, when the need arises, it is not always possible to trace an animal back to its last property of residence and, where necessary, to its property of birth, or to quickly and reliably locate companion animals.
There are issues in particular with the identification of mobs that contain non-vendor-bred animals. Producers who sell non-vendor-bred sheep or goats must either record the Property Identification Code (PIC) on the tags carried by animals on the accompanying National Vendor Declaration (NVD) form, or tag each animal with a pink NLIS (Sheep) transaction tag on which is printed the PIC of dispatch.
Monitoring of the NLIS (Sheep & Goats) has also identified other areas of concern including:
- transcription errors, where producers selling non-vendorbred animals have chosen to record on their NVD the other PICs associated with tags on animals in the consignment
- some producers selling non-vendor-bred sheep are providing a long list of other PICs with their NVDs. Only PICs that are present on tags in a consignment are permitted to be listed on accompanying NVDs.
- poor readability of some visual NLIS (Sheep) tags, including some within 3 years of application
- buyers not providing a destination PIC to the selling agent when purchasing sheep or goats at a saleyard
• vendors not retaining copies of the NVDs they provide, and buyers not obtaining and retaining copies of NVDs for the sheep and goats that they purchase.
Victorian producers receiving sheep and goats directly from another property may, if they wish, record the details on the NLIS database. There is no charge associated with registering this information where recording occurs electronically via an NLIS database account. Recording such property-to-property (P2P) movements on the NLIS database is currently voluntary in Victoria.
At a state and national level, a range of strategies are under consideration, including the use of electronic identification to tackle the weaknesses associated with the current NLIS (Sheep & Goats) system.
It is important that Victorian producers who are consigning sheep or goats to a saleyard, abattoir or to another property continue to ensure that:
If you would like further information about the NLIS (Sheep & Goats) in Victoria, please call DPI’s NLIS Helpline on 1800 678 779 during office hours.
Soil erosion – watch out!
Claire Wade, Bruce Radford and Brad Costin, Soils, Water and Climate Team, DPI Broadford
The recent exceptionally heavy rains have challenged many landscapes susceptible to soil erosion, placing at risk land stability, water quality, downstream assets and the safety of people and animals.
Erosion is the movement of material from one place to another by agents such as wind, water and gravity. It is a natural phenomenon that will proceed at an accelerated rate where inappropriate land management practices occur. The soils that are prone to wind and water erosion have little ground cover and organic matter. Wind erosion removes fertile topsoil containing organic matter from the soil profile, transporting soil particles via the wind. Water erosion occurs when soil is moved downslope. There are various types of water erosion:
- Sheet – Removal of a uniform layer of soil from the surface without the formation of channels. Look for accumulation of sediment downslope or the exposure of plant roots.
- Rill – Removal of soil by the formation of numerous small channels up to 30 cm deep.
- Gully – An erosion channel deeper than 30 cm is called a gully.
- Tunnel – Vast removal of unstable sub-surface soil after it has been exposed to the weather. The surface eventually caves in and forms a gully.
- Stream bank – Removal of soil from a stream bank, which occurs mostly during times of high stream flow.
- Mass movement – Movement of a mass of soil, such as a section of a hillside. This usually only occurs on steep slopes.
Erosion of soil by wind and water contributes to soil loss. For every 1 mm of soil lost, 130 tonnes/ha of topsoil is removed, along with:
- 130 kg organic carbon
- 20 kg nitrogen (the equivalent of 40 kg of urea)
- 8 kg phosphorous (the equivalent of 100 kg of superphosphate)!
Having experienced exceptionally heavy rains recently, check your property for signs of soil erosion:
- Check areas of long grass that may hide areas of gully erosion and tunnel erosion.
- Check the effectiveness of existing control works.
- Check erosion-sensitive areas that may have previously been stable in drier times.
By recognising the first signs and taking prompt action to prevent further soil degradation, you will be able to maintain farm productivity and profitability.
Ongoing, regular checks will ensure soil erosion does not end up costing you much more to fix in the long-term. Taking action will also assist in reducing the impact on the community and environment downstream, because soil sediments frequently end up in local waterways, degrading water quality.
Over the past 50 years we have reduced the erosion risk on farmlands through improved awareness of the causes and consequences and by using better agricultural practices. Severe droughts and floods can put pressure on these practices.
DPI Soils, Water and Climate team members are able to provide helpful advice on combating erosion, to repair affected areas on your property tailored to your situation: erosion issues vary from site to site. In addition, they can advise on opportunities to apply for grants to repair erosion. Please refer to the following contact list.
The DPI website ( www.dpi.vic.gov.au) provides general information on dealing with soil erosion. An Information Note about gully erosion can be accessed by searching for ‘gully erosion’ in the search field on the website.
Incentives still available for eligible sheep and cattle
Alisa Heck, Project Leader ISO Systems, DPI Warrnambool
Financial subsidies are still available for the examination of eligible livestock (sheep and cattle) for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) as part of a national surveillance program.
To maintain export markets, Australia must continue to prove that its livestock are free from TSEs. TSEs are a group of fatal degenerative disease of the nervous system of both humans and animals.
A number of strategies have been implemented in Australia to monitor the occurrence of TSE disease in our sheep and cattle population to maintain our freedom from TSEs.
The National Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Surveillance Program is one of these and is specifically aimed at demonstrating Australia’s ongoing freedom from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (‘mad cow disease’) and scrapie. In the Spring 2010 edition of Sheep Notes, we reported the finding of atypical scrapie in a ewe in Western Australia, which demonstrates the soundness of the program’s ability to detect a very rare form of the disease (but one that is of no concern to human health and doesn’t cause trade issues).
The program involves detailed examination of several hundred sheep and cattle nationwide. Individual animals identified as eligible candidates for inclusion in the program must meet several specific criteria:
- Sheep must be at least 18 months of age or older.
- Cattle must be at least 30 months of age and no more than 9 years of age.
- Animals must be displaying progressive clinical neurological signs (such as circling, blindness or abnormal behaviour).
- The animal must be alive at presentation to a veterinarian or DPI staff.
A producer incentive of $50 for sheep and $300 for cattle is available, and a maximum of two animals per property is permitted each year.
Producers can be involved in the program by reporting their own animals that fit these criteria to their local veterinarian or by contacting their local DPI Animal Health (see list on this page).
|Location||Office Contact||Meat and Wool Services||Animal Health|
|Sheep Industry Development Officers||Soils and Farm Water Advice, Farm Planning*|
|Bairnsdale||5152 0600||Darren Hickey|
|Ballarat||5336 6856||Samantha Clayfield||Linda Fahy|
|Bendigo||5030 4444||Erica Schelfhorst|
|Benalla||5761 1611||Lyndon Kubeil|
|Box Hill||9296 4400|
|Camperdown||5557 5888||Robert Suter|
|Echuca||54 82 1922||Garry Armstrong|
|Geelong||5226 4667||Raquel Waller|
|Hamilton||5573 0900||Anita Morant|
|Horsham||5362 2111||Garry Hallam|
|Leongatha||5662 9900||Ross Batten|
|Rutherglen||Gervaise Gaunt Stuart Warner|
|Seymour||5735 4300||Jane Court|
|Swan Hill||5033 1290|
|Tallangatta||02 6071 5303|
|Warrnambool||5561 9917||Martin Dunstan|
|Wodonga||02 6043 7900|
* Farm planning, soil health advice, soil conservation advice, dryland farm water planning
EAD Hotline number
The Emergency Animal Disease Hotline number is: 1800 675 888
It is vital that livestock managers contact their veterinarian if any unusual signs or symptoms are seen in their stock.
Animal Health Staff of the Department of Primary Industries investigate suspect emergency disease cases at no cost.