Three-day sickness arrives early this season

Three-day sickness has been identified early on the North Coast. Photo: Contributed

Bovine Ephemeral Fever, also known as three-day sickness, was recently confirmed by laboratory testing in cattle on the Far North Coast.

This detection is earlier in the season than usual and it is expected the disease will move south as the season progresses.

Three-day sickness is a virus transmitted by insects that causes a high fever and pain in the muscles and joints of cattle.

It is usually seen in cattle between six months and two years of age.

North Coast Local Land Services vet Phil Carter said, “affected cattle are often by themselves, off their feed, seek shade and water, shiver, drool and are lame.”

While most cattle recover, the onset of the disease this early in the season has vets concerned that cases could be more severe this year.

Some cattle – especially bulls and heavier conditioned cattle – may go down and take several days to get back on their feet, increasing the risk of secondary complications. Mr Carter said.

“More severe lesions in the nerves of some animals may result in some individuals being down or wobbly for prolonged periods. Pregnant cows may abort and bulls may become infertile for up to six months. Milk production can drop significantly in lactating cows.”

The virus usually appears on the North Coast as the temperature and rainfall increase, stimulating increases in the populations of the biting insects that transmit it.

“Medication is highly effective in bringing down the fever and reducing the muscle and joint pain, improving recovery timeframes and resulting in less weight loss.”

Affected cattle should be provided with shade, water and feed and turned or lifted twice daily to help prevent secondary complications. A paddock free of steep hills or gullies is preferable.

Recently recovered cattle should not be sent to the abattoirs for several weeks to give the body a chance to heal and avoid the possibility of downgrades from any residual muscle damage. Where treatments have been given, any withholding periods must be observed.

A vaccine is available and producers could consider vaccinating stock introduced from outside the region and homebred stock under two years of age (as older homebred stock may already be immune). Bulls and other high value animals of any age could also be vaccinated for maximum protection.

For further advice contact your North Coast Local Land Services vet by calling 1300 795 299.

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