SOUTH AFRICA

Preventing health problems during drought

The health, nutrition and management of livestock are inextricably interrelated. As drought sets in, under-nutrition will threaten animal health unless management is changed to prevent problems occurring. In South Africa, drought is part of the expected management cycle, and all producers should plan in advance what they will do when feed or water runs short.

Take the hard decisions early, and reduce numbers of stock to a point where you can afford to feed them properly, so that the remaining animals will remain healthy and fertile. It is a big mistake to keep too many stock and ‘half feed’ them. This only leads to welfare problems, and to losses through reduced fertility, malnutrition (vitamin and mineral deficiencies etc.), metabolic disturbances (especially in pregnant stock), and eventually starvation. When feed supplies run short, the factors that must be corrected, in order of importance, are:

  • deficiency of energy;
  • deficiency of rumendigestible protein (or alternative nitrogen and sulfur equivalent) required by rumen bacteria to produce energy and protein from lowquality feed;
  • deficiency of highquality protein required for growth, pregnancy and lactation;
  • deficiency of other minerals, particularly phosphorus, calcium and magnesium;
  • deficiency of vitamins associated with the lack of fresh green feed, particularly vitamins A, D and E.

Young animals and pregnant or lactating animals have much higher energy and protein requirements than do dry stock, and are therefore most susceptible to the effects of malnutrition. Aged animals are also at risk. These animals will need to be fed separately to ensure that their requirements are met.

Preventative herd health programs

Food and water of adequate quality and quantity are by far the most important ingredients in keeping an animal healthy. However, other factors will interact to affect an animal’s susceptibility to disease during drought. These factors include:

  • condition of different classes of stock when drought sets in;
  • stage of pregnancy or lactation;
  • any disease already present;
  • current immunity levels to common diseases, either through vaccination or previous exposure;
  • current parasite burdens, both internal (e.g. worms, fluke) and external (e.g. lice, ticks, blowflies);
  • crowding at feeding and watering points, which may result in infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria, concentrating in these vicinities, thereby facilitating spread;
  • water sources, which may increase the risk of exposure to various diseases;
  • unaccustomed close interaction and confinement with other cattle (especially strangers) and/or humans, which may impose high levels of stress on cattle, thereby reducing the ability of the immune system to protect from disease;
  • unaccustomed close interaction and confinement with other cattle (especially strangers) and/or humans, which may impose high levels of stress on cattle, thereby reducing the ability of the immune system to protect from disease;
  • the introduction of new feeds such as grain and pelleted feed, which may lead to digestive upsets if not managed with sufficient care. Digestive upsets, in turn, can predispose stock to diseases such as pulpy kidney;
  • lack of green grass, which may induce cattle to eat plants that they would not normally touch, including those that are poisonous ie Tulp or Gifblaar.

Because of these factors, herd health programs that are recommended even in the good times are more essential during drought. These practices include:

  • Vaccination with multiclostridial vaccines (ie One-Shot Ultra 7 or Ultra-choice 7) to prevent clostridial diseases, which are far more likely to occur in situations where there may be sudden changes in feed type, quality or quantity;
  • Bovine viral diarrhoea and IBR vaccinations (ie BoviShield or Cattlemaster)
  • drench for internal parasites (including fluke in fluke areas), especially young stock (if retained) and bulls.

Additional practices recommended during drought include the following.

  • Give vitamin A, D and E (either in feed or as an injection) after 2–3 months on dry feed.
  • If grain feeding, add 1% limestone by weight of grain to correct any possible calcium-to-phosphorus imbalance.

Disclaimer: Zoetis takes no responsibility for any claims that may arise from information contained in this information sheet. Individual situations may vary from location to location and it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian before any management or treatment decisions are implemented.

Vrywaring: Zoetis neem geen verantwoordelikheid vir enige eise wat mag voortspruit uit inligting vervat in hierdie inligtingsdokument. Individuele situasies varieer van plek tot plek en dit word voorgestel dat u eers u veearts kontak alvorens enige bestuurs- of behandelingsbesluite geïmplementeer word.

 

Preventing animal health problems during drought

  • The health, nutrition and management of livestock are inextricably interrelated.
  • As drought sets in, undernutrition will threaten animal health unless management is changed to prevent problems occurring.
  • In South Africa, drought is part of the expected management cycle, and all producers should plan in advance what they will do when feed or water runs short.

Adapted From MANAGING DROUGHT a publication by the NSW Dept of Primary Industries December 2006