Three day sickness spreads throughout the Hunter

The Hunter Local Land Services District Veterinarian team have advised livestock producers that three day sickness in cattle (Bovine Ephemeral Fever) has arrived in the Hunter region a little earlier than normal.  Initial cases were first detected around Barrington/Gloucester during the second week of January and is now spreading throughout the Mid Coast and wider Hunter region, including Singleton and arriving at Scone in the last week.

As mosquitos carrying the virus spread, more cases are expected with wide distribution for the next couple of months until cool weather arrives and mosquitos abate.

BEF is an insect-transmitted virus of cattle that causes a high fever and pain in the muscles and joints. Cattle that have previously been exposed will have developed an immunity to the disease. Previous widespread outbreaks in our region occurred in early 2022 and autumn 2020. Consequently, the present outbreak can be expected to mainly affect locally bred cattle less than two years of age, as well as cattle of any age which have been brought into our area from southern and western parts of NSW (or from Victoria, Tasmania or SA) where immunity from previous exposure is unlikely. However, we have also confirmed cases in some older cattle that missed infection in previous years. Thus, it is important to check all cattle daily to identify and manage affected cases.

Please monitor your herd daily for lethargic, dull, drooling or lame cattle (lameness often appears shifting from leg to leg) and ensure you are set up to help your cattle.

Affected cattle should be provided with shade and water, and feed once they regain an appetite. Cattle can die from dehydration associated with BEF so nursing of down or immobile cattle is important. If they are unable to get up after a day or two, they should be turned or lifted twice daily to help prevent secondary complications. If recumbent cattle are on a slope and likely to end up throwing themselves onto their side when struggling to rise, they should be moved into a sitting position whereby their head will be uphill of their abdomen if they do end up on their side. Ruminants don’t take long to die if they end up being cast with their head downhill

In most cases in young, light cattle, the disease is mild for 1-3 days, but heavier cattle, bulls and pregnant breeders are likely to need extra care.  Bulls in particular can suffer infertility from the fever and breeders can abort.

Anti-inflammatory medication from your private veterinarian will help reduce fever and inflammation and assist with recumbency. Downed cattle can also benefit from a flopak of calcium supplement under the skin, to restore calcium depleted by the virus and help them to regain their footing. If cattle are down for a period of time, lifting or rolling cattle becomes important to prevent downer syndrome from sustained recumbency. Please seek veterinary advice in any sustained cases or to confirm infection.

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.

More info on BEF and managing cattle is available at the NSW DPI website.For further advice contact your Hunter Local Land Services District Veterinarian by calling 1300 795 299 or private veterinary practitioner.

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