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Diseases that affect cattle, sheep and goats may be caused by:

  • Infections from bacteria, viruses or fungi
  • Parasite infestations
  • Nutritional deficiencies, excesses or imbalances
  • Metabolic disorders

Livestock affected by diseases may not always show obvious clinical signs of the disease, however, the disease may still be having a negative impact on productivity by:

  • Reducing growth rates
  • Reducing reproductive rates
  • Causing condemnation of carcases
  • Reducing milk production
  • Reducing fleece weight, fibre diameter and staple strength
  • Damaging hides and fleeces

Diseases also have a negative impact on the welfare of animals, especially when animals are suffering clinically from the disease. Diseased animals are usually in a weakened state so they are less able to feed, drink and seek shelter and are at risk of attack by predators.

Diseases of livestock can become zoonoses - meaning they can also become infected e.g. Q-fever, leptospirosis and scabby mouth.

Notifiable diseases

There are a number of diseases in animals that are notifiable. If a producer suspects or can confirm that an animal is showing symptoms of a notifiable disease it must be reported to a local vet or by contacting the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Principles of herd or flock health

Producers should take a proactive approach to managing the health of their herd or flock by:

  • Learning about the common cattle, sheep or goat diseases that occur locally.
  • Aiming for prevention rather than treatment.
  • Identifying historic sites or sites of old yards and stock routes on the property that may be potential sources of disease.
  • Developing a herd or flock disease management plan to manage the health of animals already on the farm and to prevent introduced stock bringing new diseases onto the farm.
  • Using an appropriate combination of management, preventative treatments, vaccination and curative treatments to manage the health of the herd or flock.
  • Improving nutrition to allow livestock to develop an effective immune response to diseases.
  • Vaccinating against diseases for which vaccines are available and cost-effective.
  • Quarantining all introduced livestock to prevent the introduction of new diseases.
  • Monitoring the health and welfare of livestock as frequently as practical.
  • Promptly treating or euthanising any animals suffering from disease.
  • Quarantining carcases of any animals that die suddenly, unexpectedly or for unknown reasons.
  • Seeking veterinary advice for any unexplained health problems.

Use of veterinary products

When it is necessary to use veterinary products, such as antibiotics, vaccines or other chemicals to prevent or treat diseases in livestock, producers should:

  • Read the label thoroughly before use.
  • Observe all label restrictions and follow all label directions for dose rates, safety precautions, personal protective equipment, withholding periods (WHPs), export slaughter intervals (ESIs), re-handling intervals and disposal of empty containers and unused product.
  • Follow any specific instructions provided by their veterinarian.
  • Record the appropriate information and include on the LPA NVD/Waybill if the stock are sold.

Antimicrobial stewardship guidelines launched for feedlot industry

It is everyone’s responsibility to help maintain the effectiveness of antibiotics for humans and animals, by using them responsibly, complying with prescribing guidelines, implementing stewardship programs, monitoring their use, and monitoring for resistance.

The Australian feedlot industry is dedicated to preserving the effectiveness of antimicrobials, and to protecting human and animal health, by promoting responsible antimicrobial use.

To do this, the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA), through Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), has invested grainfed levies to develop the Antimicrobial Stewardship Guidelines for the Australian Cattle Feedlot Industry (the Guidelines), to arm feedlot managers with practical information on antimicrobial resistance and provide a framework to ensure appropriate use of antimicrobials, thereby reducing the risk of antimicrobial resistance and safeguarding the use of these important animal health tools well into the future.

These practical guidelines have been developed by independent, internationally recognised antimicrobial stewardship experts, Australian industry practitioners and industry representatives who operate feedlots.

The guidelines align the feedlot industry with national and international initiatives to preserve the effectiveness of antimicrobials for people and animals, and specifically the Federal Government’s First National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy (2015–2019) objective that encourages animal industries to develop stewardship programs.