Cattle graziers warned of three day sickness due to flood conditions

Three Day Sickness, or Bovine Ephemeral Fever (BEF), is a viral disease of cattle present in northern Australia and may appear in Central West NSW following warm wet weather and increased biting insect populations.

Central West Local Lands Services Regional Veterinarian Jillian Kelly is urging graziers to take particular note of symptoms and to contact their district veterinarian should they suspect infection.

“Three Day Sickness may become an issue in the next few months,” Dr Kelly said.

“It is particularly topical in the northern and western parts of the region due to the large population of mosquitos which follow the persistent wet weather.

“Typically, affected animals are only sick for a few days, hence the common name – Three Day Sickness.”

Treatment for affected animals is usually unwarranted, however high value animals including bulls can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. Animals lying down should be provided with adequate water, food and shelter.

“Vaccination is available and highly recommended, but it needs to be done now in order to get the two doses administered before the BEF occurs,” Dr Kelly said.

“The cost of vaccinating is high but will be money well spent especially for bulls, heavy animals or high value animals. The BEF vaccine is only available through a veterinary practitioner.”

Infected animals will experience a sudden onset of fever, may shiver and show signs of lameness. They will be stiff and reluctant to move, drool saliva, develop a nasal discharge and may have watery eyes.

Joints may appear swollen and some animals will lie down and refuse to move. The fertility of bulls may be affected due to the high fever and abortions may occur in pregnant females.

“In the majority of cases the disease will run a relatively short course, with most animals standing and eating again after the third day,” Dr Kelly said.

“However, the disease can vary in severity and a small number of animals may stay down for a few weeks. Muscle damage or damage to the spinal cord can occur due to constant struggling, or injuries can occur if the animal falls suddenly or awkwardly.”

The disease can have severe economic and production consequences for producers through loss of animal condition, reduced fertility in bulls, reduced milk production, marketing delays and treatment costs. Death can occur in severely affected animals.

If you are a cattle producer and notice stock with symptoms of BEF, contact your District Veterinarian for advice. This is also important to let Local Land Services know the disease has arrived in the region.

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