Livestock Disease Trends – February 2015

Monthly report on livestock disease trends in South Africa.

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Roundworms: Reports of infestations were received from all provinces except the Northern Cape. Beware of the consequences of late rains: the condition of animals is declining as the nutritional value of grazing decreases.

Reports of wireworm resistance to drugs and mortalities due to verminisis were also received. After each treatment assess the efficacy of the anthelmintic used.

Tapeworms: Reports of tapeworm were received from most of the provinces.
Young animals especially should be observed for clinical signs, such as diarrhoea and pot belly. Observe if animals are shedding white segments (proglottids) in their faeces.

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Remember animals become infected when they eat infected grass mites, not via their mother’s milk or some other way.

Parafilaria: Cattle with bleeding spots were reported from Limpopo, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. At slaughter these lesions will be removed and farmers will lose revenue. Animals should be treated 70 days before slaughter to allow the lesions to heal. Discuss treatment with your vet.

Flukes: Study reports from abattoirs to see if animals slaughtered were infested with liver fluke and discuss control measures with your vet. Numerous deaths have been reported. Be on the lookout for animals with profuse diarrhoea after being moved to camps where there are wet vleis or dams where infected water snails are present.

Cysticercosis (measles): Constantly being found in slaughter stock and farmers should strive to prevent infection of animals. Source the origin of the infestation and install preventative measures.

Coccidiosis: Infections were reported from most provinces. Young animals are especially affected in wet and muddy conditions.

Download the February Livestock Disease Trends Map.

External parasites

Blue ticks: Severe blue tick infestations occurred in all provinces except the Northern Cape. These ticks cause anaemia and transmit African and Asiatic red water, anaplasmosis and lumpy skin disease. Assess the efficacy of control programmes with your vet as resistance to certain drug groups may be present on the farm.

Bont/heartwater tick: The presence of this tick was reported in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Limpopo, KZN and the Eastern and Western Cape. With increased game farming, movement of cattle and climate change in many parts of South Africa this tick is seen in areas where it was not seen before.

Bont legged-tick: The presence of this tick was reported from all provinces except the Eastern Cape.

Brown ear-ticks: This is a three host tick and hundreds of adults attached to the ears are a common sight this time of the year. If not treated regularly, animals may lose ears and even die of tick toxicosis. These ticks can also transmit Theileria, the cause of Corridor disease.

Lice (sucking and biting): Only a few reports were received as lice are mainly a winter problem. Farmers with wool sheep should check their sheep regularly for lice as they cause serious disturbance of the fleece. There is serious red lice resistance to drugs and farmers should be aware of not buying in sheep with lice.

Mites: Be on the lookout for disturbances in wool and this should be reported to the State Veterinarian as sheep scab is a State-controlled disease. Biosecurity measures to prevent sheep becoming infected should be in place at all times.

Flies, midges and mosquitoes: Numerous reports of nuisance flies, blowflies, midges, mosquitoes and nasal bot were received from many parts of the country.

Tick-borne diseases

African red water: Reports were received from all provinces except the Northern Cape.

Asiatic red water: This disease is spreading and reports were received from all provinces except the North West and Northern Cape. Discuss vaccination programmes with your veterinarian. Asiatic red water is a killer disease and proper steps should be taken to control it.

Anaplasmosis: Numerous reports of outbreaks and mortalities were received from most provinces. This disease is spread by blue ticks, biting flies and needles (vaccinations). Discuss vaccinating cattle prophylactically with your vet.

Heartwater: This disease causes serious problems in areas where the bont tick is prevalent. Reports were received from all provinces except the Free State, Western and Northern Cape.

Sweating sickness: Due to the increasing numbers of bont legged-ticks, reports of sweating sickness, caused by the toxin of these ticks, were received from Mpumalanga, Gauteng, North West, KZN and the Northern Cape.

Insect-transmitted diseases

Lumpy skin disease: This disease, transmitted by biting insects and certain ticks, was reported from all over the country.

Three-day stiff sickness: Vaccine is not available and serious economic losses were recorded. Outbreaks occurred in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Limpopo, North West, Free State and KZN.

Blue tongue: Reports were received from all over the country except the Northern Cape and Limpopo. Due to the unavailability of vaccine, young unvaccinated sheep were especially hard hit. Where only the C vaccine was given sheep still contracted the disease. Sheep that had been properly vaccinated in previous years were protected.

Venereal diseases

These diseases are causing havoc in our country. Trichomonosis was reported from all provinces except Gauteng, Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape. Bulls should be tested about six weeks after the breeding season in order for farmers to have ample time to plan for the next breeding season with their vets.

Bacterial diseases

The following bacterial diseases were reported: blackquarter, pulpy kidney, lamb dysentery, swelled head, red gut in cattle, blood gut in sheep, tetanus, salmonellosis, enzootic abortion, colibacillosis, lumpy wool and senkobo disease.

Viral diseases

The following were reported: Bovine malignant catarrh (snotsiekte), infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), enzootic bovine leucosis (EBL), jaagsiekte, orf and warts.

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) was reported from all over the country with high mortality figures.


In drought conditions plant poisonings are usually on the increase as these plants are green amid the dry grass. The following toxicities were reported: tulip, ink berry (Cestrum), Cynanchum (klimop), facial eczema, geeldikkop, gousiekte, kikuyu, Senecio, Lantana, nenta (krimpsiekte), vermeersiekte, blue green algae, prussic acid, mycotoxicosis (mouldy feed), organophosphate, lead and urea.

Draw up a protocol with your vet on how to treat these poisonings should they occur on your farm.

Feedlot Report

Sheep feedlots

  • Two groups of sheep with resistant wireworm infestation.
  • Salmonella infections caused mortalities at a few feedlots.
  • A few cases of blue tongue – sheep survived.
  • Orf cases were widespread and lambs severely infected with secondary infection died.
  • Underweight lambs that entered feedlots struggled with adaptation and mortalities occurred due to pulpy kidney, acidosis, pneumonia and diarrhoea.

Cattle feedlots

  • Acidosis with bloat and red gut caused big losses in feedlots.
  • Morbidity and mortality due to pneumonia increased during the latter part of the month.
  • Sudden changes in the weather played an important part here.
  • Drought conditions had an impact on the condition of calves as they were in a poor condition when they arrived at feedlots.
  • Newly weaned calves contributed to the increased number of calves that got diseased. Such calves are always seen as high risk animals when it comes to animal health.