Farm Ireland

Monday 25 March 2019

Pneumonia top cause of death among cattle- Regional Veterinary Lab report

Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Pneumonia and parasitic enteritis were the main reasons for cattle and sheep deaths during the last quarter of 2018, the latest Department of Agriculture Regional Veterinary Lab (RVL) report has revealed.

Just under 120 cattle were found to have died due to pneumonia during the last three months of 2018.

Approximately 30pc of all bovine mortalities were as a result of respiratory diseases, while under 25pc were alimentary tract related.

This was followed by enteritis and parasitic gastro enteritis which caused under 40 deaths. Bacteraemia was the reason for over 20 deaths and blackleg and poisoning were also listed.

Over 50pc of deaths of calves greater than one months of age but younger than three months were caused by respiratory diseases, while under 40pc of weanling mortalities were also due to respiratory illnesses.

Some 87.7pc of perinatal foetal deaths were caused by abortion.

Meanwhile, the main cause of sheep deaths (ovine) were alimentary tract and respiratory diseases which accounted for under 35pc and under 15pc deaths respectively.

Parasitic enteritis, enteritis and pneumonia were the three most common causes of deaths. Over 78.6pc of foetal deaths were caused by abortion.

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Overall, the number of submissions recorded in this quarter exceeded that reported in the same period in 2016 or 2017.

However, the numbers of both carcases and foetuses presented were reduced, and there was an increase in the number of other diagnostic samples submitted.

The reduction in the number of foetuses presented in this quarter compared to the same period in the preceding years is notable.

Dry ground conditions leading into the period may have limited the viability and spread of abortion causing agents on pasture.

There was an increase in the proportion of cattle in which parasitic gastroenteritis was diagnosed during this quarter.

This may be associated with the return of normal levels of rainfall following the long dry spell experienced last summer.

Worm eggs appear to have remained “dormant” on pasture during the drought and hatched in large numbers within a very short period.

During Q4 of 2018, the RVLs reported on numerous animals which had died having shown signs of alimentary tract disturbance, with a history of recent dosing or negative faecal egg counts, which had no worms visible on necropsy, but in which worm larvae were visible in sections of gut when examined under the microscope.

This highlights the limitations of both dosing and faecal egg counts as diagnostic methods, and underlines the value of the RVLs in providing high quality animal disease information.

Following a decline in numbers of sheep carcases submitted for post-mortem examination in Q4 2017, submissions in Q4 2018 returned to a similar level to that recorded in Q4 of 2016.

The Department's current liver fluke forecast predicted a lower disease risk than usual for most of the country. The predictions were borne out for Q4 of 2018.

For the first time in several years, acute fasciolosis did not appear in the list of the most common causes of death.

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