With the abundant pasture growth of recent months and the light stocking rates on many properties, there may be a large amount of dry standing feed present.
This, coupled with anticipated autumn breaking rains in the not-too-distant future, means that farmers are advised to be on the lookout for an emerging disease of cattle named Acute Bovine Liver Disease.
The disease was first noted in Tasmania in 1987, and in recent years, several incidents have been seen in south-west Victoria, south-east South Australia, Gippsland, and north-east Victoria.
The condition has been seen in both beef and dairy cattle. In the worst cases, there has been a sudden onset of deaths in cattle. In some incidents, there were many cattle deaths.
The typical symptoms of photosensitisation, such as depression, agitation, raised temperature, and reddening of the lighter coloured skin and udder, may be seen prior to death and are also common conditions amongst the surviving animals.
The pathology reports are consistent with an acute liver disease. Cases are consistently linked to access to a plant called Rough Dog's Tail (Cynosurus echinatus), also known as Manifold Grass. Whether the grass itself is poisonous or whether it is a carrier for another toxin such as a fungus is to be established.
There is no known direct cure for affected cattle, but veterinary treatment to alleviate the effects of photosensitisation may help.
To date, ABLD has not been identified in other species. Several common features have been seen during each outbreak:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.