Three spring killers to look out for

With high soil moisture levels, a wetter-than-average outlook and record-breaking livestock prices, this spring is shaping up to be amazing.

This spring also comes with a few words of caution as Northern Tablelands Local Land Services District Vets warn livestock producers to watch out for bloat, pulpy kidney and barbers pole worm in livestock.


Bloat is the build-up of excess gas in the rumen (first stomach) leading to discomfort, and eventually death. Bloat is a risk, particularly after good rainfall, when animals are grazing young, lush pasture, especially if the pasture has a high legume content (clover, medics or lucerne).

Be mindful that changes in diet, such as transitioning from winter fodder to pasture, can increase the risk of bloat as a sudden intake of lush, green feed can result in the production of large amounts of gas in the rumen, compressing lungs and stopping blood flow, which can lead to death.

Signs of bloat include an obvious swelling of the upper left flank, no longer grazing, a reluctance to move and rapid breathing. Severe cases, where animals are showing obvious distress, need urgent relief and veterinary advice should be obtained immediately.

The risk of bloat can be minimised by:

  • Using bloat oil on trough water and using bloat blocks on dam/creek water
  • Ensuring livestock
  • Grazing in smaller paddocks allows more intensive monitoring and management and ensure livestock have access to roughage such as hay
  • Using grazing management to avoid grazing these high-risk pastures

Pulpy kidney

Pulpy kidney is a disease that effects sheep, cattle and goats. It occurs when high energy (high carbohydrate) feed is consumed. The presence of this high carbohydrate feed in the gut allows the overgrowth of clostridial organisms. These bacteria release a toxin called epsilon toxin which poisons the animal.

Pulpy kidney usually manifests in young, fast growing animals that are unweaned or recently weaned, particularly lambs. A sudden diet change, such as moving livestock to lush pastures or heavy grain feeding, causes rapid multiplication of the bacteria and associated deadly toxin.

Often, affected livestock are simply found dead. There may be no prior signs of sickness nor evidence of struggling. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for pulpy kidney but a vaccination program with 2 doses 4-6 weeks apart initially, and then a three-monthly booster, can achieve long lasting protection. More frequent boosters are required in high risk conditions.

Barbers pole worm

Rain and warm weather provide ideal conditions for barber’s pole worm. Producers need to look out for weak sheep with pale eyelids and gums. Sheep do not scour with barber’s pole worm as they do with some other worm burdens, so often, the first sign is sheep dying.

It takes about 21 days for the lifecycle of the worm, so about 3-6 weeks after rain events is when we expect to see clinical signs in sheep. Barber’s pole worm infestations can be detected by worm faecal egg counts and post-mortem of affected sheep.

Please do not reach straight for the drench gun - do a worm test first – you can pick up a worm test kit from your nearest Local Land Services office, collect some sheep poo and send it to the lab. In a few days, you’ll know if your sheep are wormy enough to need a drench. You can also learn to do a worm test yourself and get an immediate result. Northern Tablelands Local Land Services and NSW DPI both provide worm egg counting courses.

Integrated control programs, including paddock management, monitoring and quarantine drenching, can help reduce the negative impacts of barber’s pole worm. Speak to your local vet or agricultural advisor to help develop a comprehensive management program. Paraboss ( also has plenty of information to help producers control sheep parasites.

For more information about livestock health, contact your Local Land Services District Vet or Livestock Officer on 1300 795 299. You can also visit for more information on each of these extensive topics.

Media contact: Annabelle Monie or 0429 626 326

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