December was hot and dry in large parts of the country. In other parts it was hot and very wet. The perception is that internal parasites do not occur in drought circumstances. This is not always the case. Practice vigilant repair of leaking water troughs and pipelines so as not to get caught by an infestation of internal parasites. Water snails, the intermediate hosts of liver fluke and conical fluke worms concentrate as water levels drop and surprise oubreaks of these parasites may occur. Use the five-point check to keep on top of what is happening in the flock.

In the areas that are hot and wet, the presence of internal parasites is a given and farmers must take the necessary measures to protect their animals against these parasites.

A total of 121 Reports from veterinary practices and laboratories were received (Mpumalanga (MP) 11; Gauteng (G) 9; Limpopo (L) 9; Northwest (NW) 8; Free State (FS) 23; KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) 12; Eastern Cape (EC) 15; Western Cape (WC) 20: Northern Cape (NC) 7; Feedlots (FL) 1 and Laboratories (Lab) 6).

Visit for the full disease report.

Internal parasites

Blue tick infestations were reported from most provinces. Blue ticks (African and Asiatic blue ticks) can transmit redwater, anaplasmosis (gall sickness) and lumpy skin disease.  Asiatic redwater is spreading and is one of the deadliest diseases in cattle. Numerous mortalities have been reported. Make sure to assess the blue tick resistance status on your farm before buying tickicides. Your veterinarian will be able to collect engorged blue ticks to be tested for resistance.

Actives to be tested for resistance are: organophosphates, pyrethroids, amidines, fipronil. Actives registered only for controlling blue ticks are: macrocyclic lactones, fluazuron (acaracide growth regulator).

Discuss your tick control programme with your veterinarian. Implementing good tick control in early spring can stop large outbreaks of ticks in the summer. It is critical that farmers vaccinate their animals against tick-borne disease.

Anaplasmosis was reported in seven provinces.

Insect-transmitted diseases

Many cases of insect-transmitted diseases have been reported. As soon as insect populations increase in wet weather conditions, unvaccinated animals, and those lacking immunity to insect-transmitted diseases, will be vulnerable to infection. Analysis of blood samples taken by an international research group in the Free State showed that antibody levels against Rift Valley Fever were very low although the animals had been vaccinated. This may have been due to poor cold chain management of vaccine and is of great concern.

Experience informs us that the prevalence of insect-transmitted diseases will increase from now until until the first frost in May.  Vaccines are difficult to get hold of during disease outbreaks with a rush on supplies, so it is wisest to vaccinate your cattle ahead of time.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Trichomoniasis (trich) is out of control with new cases reported every month. When buying in, or sharing, bulls check that their farm of origin has good biosecurity measures in place including regular tests for STDs. Trichomoniasis was reported from six provinces.

Make sure that fences are intact, and gates closed to stop bulls mating with possibly infected neighbouring cows, or infected neighbouring bulls from spreading the disease in your herd.

Cattle study groups should discuss preventative and control measures with their veterinarians and test regularly.

Farmers should see trich as an area disease and work together to keep their areas free from diseases such as trichomoniasis, brucellosis and sheep scab.

Bacterial diseases

There have been numerous reports of bacterial disease. Multi-clostridial vaccines should be used if blackquarter outbreaks still occur after using the vaccine containing Clostridium chauvoei. Boost the vaccine if you are using an inactivated vaccine for the first time. Read the package insert and follow the directions. Get advice from your veterinarian on Cryptosporidium/E. coli outbreaks in your area and how to prevent losses in lambs and calves.

Enzootic abortion contributes to the disappearance of foetuses in sheep and goats that have scanned pregnant. Vaccinate replacement ewes with the live vaccine before putting them to the ram.

Pulpy kidney (Clostridium perfringens type D – epsilon toxin) is still the biggest killer of sheep. There are various factors that lead to pulpy kidney such as: the intestinal tract stops functioning (stasis), sudden change from poor veld to lush artificial pastures; sudden change in diet; grazing of fodder crops such as lucerne, green wheat and green oats, diet high in protein, overeating of concentrates or fertile pastures, deworming and coccidiosis infection. Sudden changes in the weather and grazing wilted pastures, may also predispose the animals to pulpy kidney.

Viral diseases

There is no treatment for viral diseases. Animals must be protected against these diseases by vaccinations, if they are available. Preventative vaccination is the best way to protect animals against viruses and bacteria causing pneumonia.

Keep cattle and wildebeest well separated, especially if the wildebeest are under stress, to prevent snotsiekte outbreaks. There is also a sheep-associated form of the disease.

Discuss vaccination programmes and biosecurity measures with your veterinarian.


Be careful and vigilant when moving animals into rested grazing camps, especially if they are bought in animals, as they may eat toxic plants such as Tulip and Ink Berry (Cestrum).

Keep activated charcoal on the farm as an antidote to Tulip poisoning. Toxic plants are sometimes eaten by young animals that do not know these plants. Be aware of this situation and know where these plants are growing on the farm.

There are reports of urea poisoning every month. Use the correct concentration when feeding urea and make sure that the lick does not get wet.

A few cases of Lantana poisoning were reported.

Nutritional deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies were reported. It is important for ewes and cows to receive sufficient supplementation so as to have optimal quality colostrum for their offspring. Drought conditions are present in many areas.

Antagonists like calcium, iron and sulphur hamper the uptake of micro-minerals. Have water and soil samples analysed to see what the antagonist levels are. Arrange with your veterinarian to have liver samples analysed to determine the micro-mineral status in your herd or flock.

Check the herd status for selenium, a powerful anti-oxidant which is necessary for immunity.  Beware of fluoride poisoning as borehole water levels drop. Supplement animals with vitamin A during winter and drought conditions.

Discuss the origin, treatment and prevention of these diseases with your veterinarian.

Metabolic diseases

Adapt your animals to feed containing concentrates, as more and more cases of acidosis are reported when grazing animals on harvested maize fields.

Discuss the etiology, treatment and prevention of these diseases with your veterinarian.

A poor conception rate on many farms is a huge issue. Visit your veterinarian to rectify this problem.  – Ruvasa