For this workshop our hosts were Peter and Penny Dagg from Eastern Dorpers and White Dorpers who shared their knowledge and experience about managing sheep health with our enthusiastic participants. Our other guest speakers were Dr Kate Sawford, the District Veterinarian from South East Local Land Services and Dr Natasha Lees from Scibus Pty Ltd (so a line-up of four vets in total!). The day included some theory sessions, a paddock walk and a sheep handling demonstration.
Please note that the following notes from the workshop are general in nature and farmers should seek expert advice for their particular situation.
The best methods of disease control are good animal husbandry, including ensuring your stock have access to adequate feed and water, and vaccinating and drenching your stock following best practice advice. If you are new to farming and not sure what to look out for here are some general tips:
- Do your stock have adequate nutrition for the stage they are in the production cycle? For example, breeding ewes and cattle have higher nutritional requirements than other classes of stock. Animals that have just calved or lambed have additional requirements.
- Some disorders are caused by nutrient deficiencies at certain times of the year.
- If you call the vet, have a good case history ready, including how old the animal is, how many are sick, has it just given birth, what do you feed it and when you last vaccinated and drenched the animal?
Learn the correct way to vaccinate your animals. Most vaccines are administered subcutaneously, between the skin and muscle. Read the instructions about dosage and administering the vaccine on the box. Try not to accidentally vaccinate yourself since some vaccines can have serious side effects. Vaccines that are particularly high-risk for humans include the Gudair vaccine for sheep.
Learn the correct way to drench your animals for internal parasites, including worms and liver fluke. WormBoss has lots of information about the different types of worms, drenches and other management strategies for sheep and goats.
There are some animal diseases that can transfer to humans and impact on your health. These are called zoonotic diseases. One example is Q fever which is a bacterial infection that causes flu-like symptoms in people and it can have long term effects. It is recommended that people handling sheep, cattle and goats consider getting tested and vaccinated for Q Fever, particularly if they are in contact with breeding animals. See the NSW Health Website for more information. Many rural-based medical practices offer Q Fever vaccination.
You should contact your local vet or District Veterinarian to report animal health concerns affecting several animals or multiple unexplained animal deaths as soon as possible. You can also call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Line on 1800 675 888 and find more on the Animal Health Australia website.
When purchasing livestock, ask for an animal health declaration. This covers a range of diseases and parasites. While this is not a mandatory requirement, all good breeders should supply them for sheep, cattle and goats that are moved around Australia.
Some diseases move with infected breeding animals like bulls and rams. Diseases like Vibriosis in cattle and Brucellosis in sheep can have a significant, detrimental effect on herd performance.
Vibriosis fact sheet
Ovine Brucellosis fact sheet
Liver fluke fact sheet
Every landholder who manages livestock (ruminants, pigs and horses) on their property is required to have a Property Identification Code (PIC). The data collected through the annual stock return for each property is used to create an annual animal census and the data is used in times of natural disaster to aid in recovery and organise fodder drops. The PIC number is also used for food safety requirements and food traceability which is required for international trade and domestic food safety. You can find out more about livestock management including applying for a PIC at South East Local Land Services – Livestock.
There are a number of steps that you need to take to buy and sell livestock. When purchasing livestock it is important to purchase livestock from a trusted source with a National Vendor Declaration and animal health declaration to avoid importing diseases and parasites onto your property. Information about buying and selling ruminants can be found on the NSW DPI website and the 8 Step Guide to moving and selling sheep and goats. The South East Local Land Services Guide to Moving Stock is another useful resource.
Farm biosecurity is a set of measures that you can put in place to manage the risks of diseases, weeds and pests on your property. Simple biosecurity measures that small farmers can take include:
- Monitoring inputs and outputs from your farm
- Having a place to quarantine new stock to reduce the risk of introducing diseases, worms and weed seeds
- Purchasing clean feed (ask for a commodity vendor declaration)
- Controlling the movement of vehicles and equipment on and off your property
- Not feeding restricted animal material (meat and meat by products) to ruminants or swill to your animals (both are illegal feeds)
- Keeping good animal husbandry records of mating, drenching, medications and routine procedures
- Having good fencing especially boundary fences that prevent stock from straying into or out of your property
- Practicing good farm hygiene – disinfect needles between vaccinations of animals, handle sick animals last to prevent the transfer of diseases, wash and disinfect loaned machinery.
The Animal Health Australia Website has a useful Biosecurity Brochure for farmers.
This event was made possible with funding and in-kind support from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, South East Local Land Services and Scibus Pty Ltd. This initiative is part of the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, the Government’s plan for Stronger Farmers and a Stronger Community.
The Small Farms Network would like to thank the sponsor of the network The Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability and the Small Farms Network Capital Region Committee. Finally thank you to our hosts and volunteers Peter and Penny Dagg at Eastern Dorpers and White Dorpers for hosting the field day and sharing their knowledge and expertise.