Summer rain brings warning of three-day sickness

RAIN is almost always good news for farmers but not when it comes to three-day sickness.

Bovine Ephemeral Fever (BEF), commonly known as three-day sickness, causes serious economic losses through decreased weight gain, deaths and reduced fertility in bulls.

Cattle with three-day often lose their appetite and are reluctant to do more than lie around.

Clinical signs of the viral disease include fevers, stiffness in the muscles and sometimes nasal discharge, drooling and weeping eyes.

Dr Sarah-Jane Wilson of the Livestock Biosecurity Network (LBN) said producers were on the back foot due to a recent shortage of the BEF vaccination and now the summer rain.

"The virus that causes BEF is thought to be transmitted between cattle by flying insects such as mosquitoes and biting midges, and these insects become more prevalent after significant rain," Dr Wilson said.

The disease can affect cattle of all ages and is often seen after a prolonged drought period because the lack of rain impedes insect breeding.

"This means, with no biting insects to spread the virus, there will be fewer animals who have previously been exposed and developed immunity to the virus," she said.

Affected animals should have shelter, food and water and need to be rolled several times a day. Lactating cows and bulls must be a priority. A blood test can identify the virus and is most successful straight away.

To make sure animals are fully immune before insect populations have the chance to breed, it is recommended vaccinations are completed annually before spring.

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