Mystery illness hits calves

By Country News on August 05, 2016

The cause of disease is not yet known, however investigations are continuing. 

Mystery still surrounds a potentially fatal illness affecting weaned calves, however recent research is getting closer to determining the cause of the problem.

Earlier this year DEDJTR animal health officers cautioned farmers to be on the lookout for the disease, which includes symptoms of weight loss and diarrhoea.

In-depth investigations into the illness have been conducted since its discovery, however the cause remains unidentified.

“Progress has been made but we’re not in a position to definitively say what the cause is,” district veterinary officer Charles Milne said.

“Since February we’ve received two reports, which brings the total to 10 (cases) in the last three years.”

Dr Milne said affected calves were dairy breeds, and the mortality rate of the disease was 10 per cent.

Reported cases have come from the three major dairying regions across the state, 
including northern Victoria.

At this point, it can only be confirmed that the illness is not one of the major exotic diseases.

“We’ve ruled out all major exotic diseases like foot and mouth diseases,” Dr Milne said.

Information from DEDJTR earlier this year stated that another symptom was ulcers in the mouth and throat region, however this has since been disproved.

“It’s important we get that message out that it is not about ulceration in the mouth.”

Animal health officers are undertaking intensive sampling on sick calves, and full post-mortems on dead calves.

“We are looking for all possible causes … it could be anything from a chemical toxin through to plant toxins.”

The disease reflects calving seasons rather than seasonality and weather conditions.

“The only reason it is seasonal is it does occur in young calves, so it occurs in times of year when calving occurs,” Dr Milne said.

The disease could pose significant problems for farmers and Dr Milne encouraged them to report any signs of the illness so animal health staff could conduct more research.

Without knowing the cause, there was no indication of whether the disease was contagious, Dr Milne said.

For more information, contact your private veterinary practitioner or your local DEDJTR animal health officer.

By Country News on August 05, 2016

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