DairyNZ, veterinarians and other rural professionals are working together to understand the cause and provide further actions that farmers can take to reduce the risk to their herd.
We are asking farmers to be vigilant if they are grazing cows on swedes.
Swedes in Southland are a critical part of many feed plans. To simply stop feeding swedes and substitute with other feed may not be easy, so we are treating this as an urgent issue to advise farmers on.
We are co-ordinating some scientific research to get to the bottom of what’s causing the deaths and get the answers farmers need, using the crop material still available to test. We’re doing blood tests on animals to determine liver damage and carrying out post-mortems.
We know that farmers will need answers before planting next winter’s crops. We want to understand why this has happened and prevent it occurring again.
We are surveying Southland farmers (by e-mail) to gather accurate data on how many herds, cows and farms have been affected and in what ways - deaths, sickness, grazing patterns. If you are a Southland farmer and would like to fill out the survey, click here.
What’s the advice to farmers in the meantime?
DairyNZ is advising farmers and their staff who are feeding swedes to cows to be extra vigilant and look out for signs of photosensitivity, weight loss and ill thrift in their herds.
We are asking farmers to check all cows, including young stock and any animals being fed swedes off-farm. Our latest farm advisory has our detailed advice. See below.
If signs appear, farmers should take cows off the crop and contact their veterinarian.
What are the warning signs to look for if your cows are or have been on swedes?
- Weight loss and ill-thrift.
- Down-cows that are unresponsive to normal metabolic intervention.
- Photosensitivity. Signs of this include:
i) cows seeking shade (if available)
ii) reddening of the udder and skin damage to white skin areas
iii) restlessness shown by skin twitching; flicking of ears and tail; irritability; and stomping.
What should farmers do if signs appear?
Remove animals from the swede crop and provide alternative feed, water and shade for any animal showing signs of photosensitivity.
If cows are showing any of the above signs, farmers need to contact their veterinarian for advice. Their veterinarian may advise blood tests to determine any liver damage. Post-mortems on dead animals may also be recommended.
- DairyNZ Advisory Update: Feeding dairy cattle swedes (12 September 2014)