Category: “What’s new”

Sheep and Beef Articles

The following is a list of Articles that might be of interest to you.  Just click on the title and you will be directed to the article:

Laser Therapy

We are incredibly happy with our Class 4 K-Laser and the variety of uses this wonderful machine has! We have used the Laser on wound management, arthritic cases, post op wounds, post op orthopedics, physio and acupuncture to name a few! As well as the machine being portable so being ideal to treat equine patients, the laser treatment itself also is pain free and non invasive, so perfect for you and your pet to keep treatment as stress free as possible!

What is Laser Therapy?

Laser Therapy, or “photobiomodulation”, is the use of specific wavelengths of light (red and near-infrared) to create therapeutic effects. These effects include improved healing time, pain reduction, increased circulation and decreased swelling. Laser Therapy has been widely utilized in Europe by physical therapists, nurses and doctors as far back as the 1970’s. Now, after FDA clearance in 2002, Laser Therapy is being used extensively in the United States.

Has effectiveness been demonstrated scientifically?

Yes. There are thousands of published studies demonstrating the clinical effectiveness of Laser Therapy. Among these, there are more than one hundred rigorously controlled, scientific studies that document the effectiveness of Laser Therapy for many clinical conditions.

Cellular Effects of Laser Therapy

During Laser Therapy the infrared laser light interacts with tissues at the cellular level, and metabolic activity increases within the cell, improving the transport of nutrients across the cell membrane. This initiates the increased production of cellular energy (ATP) that leads to a cascade of beneficial effects, increasing cellular function and health.

Laser Therapeutic Effects

During each painless treatment, laser energy increases circulation, drawing water, oxygen, and nutrients to the damaged area. This creates an optimal healing environment that reduces inflammation, swelling, muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. As the injured area returns to normal, function is restored and pain is relieved.

What is a Class 4 therapy laser?

Lasers are classified according to their output power. A Class 4 laser has more than 500 milliwatts of power. Higher power means it can deliver more energy per unit of time – which means your Veterinarian can treat a very large area on your pet in just a few minutes.

Ryegrass Staggers

Ryegrass Staggers

Ryegrass Staggers is a neurological impairment of cattle – particularly of weaned calves and heifers – as well as sheep, deer, horses and alpacas. Horses can be permanently impaired.

It is caused by a naturally occurring ryegrass endophyte (fungus). The fungus produces a toxin that is concentrated in leaf sheaths and seed heads. When ingested the toxin affects the nervous system of grazing animals.

It occurs throughout NZ as far south as Otago, mostly during dry spells (January to late April) when pasture is likely to be in short supply and is being grazed closer to the ground.

Ryegrass Staggers is not the same as grass staggers or hypomagnesemia – a deficiency of magnesium in the blood that can seriously affect cattle.


An early sign of ryegrass staggers is that an animal will be unusually anxious when approached. An affected animal will likely show a slight trembling of the head. Skin on the neck, shoulder and flanks will twitch and flicker when the animal is disturbed.

Symptoms progress to head nodding, jerky movements, swaying while standing and staggering movements. A deterioration is evidenced by stiff-legged and jerky movement, short prancing steps and eventual collapse, sometimes with rigid spasms lasting several minutes.

Calves usually remain upright on their briskets with their legs splayed while sheep tend to roll on their sides with head extended and limbs rigid.

  • Affected stock cannot be disturbed without risk of their collapse. This makes it difficult to move them to the next feed break or to a yard.
  • Affected animals lose physical condition and do not drink sufficient water.
  • An immediate economic consequence for dairy farmers is loss of milk production. Affected dairy cows are also at risk of injury when falling in the race and falling on concrete in the dairy shed, yard or milking area.
  • Although not fatal in itself, ryegrass staggers can lead to stock losses through ‘misadventure’ – animals staggering into waterways and drowning, falling into an electric fence or other obstacle and being injured, falling down a bank, or into a ditch or swamp and becoming stuck.


A DSIR test in NZ showed a correlation between the relief of ryegrass staggers and dosing with Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) and potassium chloride (McColl & Orchard, 1981).

A preventive course of action was indicated in the results of a North Canterbury farm trial with seaweed-based trough treatments for 236 bull calves over a 10-week period (McKenzie, 1985).

Fungicidal spray is an option to suppress potential endophyte build-up in ryegrass pasture.

Long term options for severely affected farms are pasture replacement with an endophyte-resistant grass or livestock replacement with animals bred for ryegrass staggers resistance

Pasture management options aim to:

  1. provide fresh breaks into leafy ryegrass where toxicity is naturally lower.
  2. provide pasture that has a low endophyte count or is ryegrass-free.
  3. provide pasture that includes legumes such as white clover, which dilute toxin uptake.
  4. provide ‘safe pasture’ such as lucerne, red clover, chicory, brown top, kikuyu and annual ryegrass (as opposed to perennial ryegrass).
  5. make available summer forage crops and supplements such as grain, hay and silage.

Stock management options aim to:

  1. leave affected animals mostly undisturbed.
  2. move stock slowly and patiently without the stress of bikes, dogs and overcrowding.
  3. postpone any non-essential yarding and stock movements.
  4. avoid leaving stock in paddocks with natural hazards such as ponds, ditches and bluffs.
  5. make allowance for recovering animals now mobile but still lacking normal coordination.
  6. implement a weekly drench programme prior to and during the period of risk.

Dairy management options aim to:

  1. minimise the distance walked to the dairy yard.
  2. milk affected cows only once a day and drench once or twice weekly with a preferred drench formulation that will help reduce the incidence and severity of ryegrass staggers.
  3. dry-off badly affected cows to lessen their physical stress.

Vetpack Summer “Tonic” is a mineral-rich, seaweed-based formulation administered to animals as a ready-to-use feed supplement or drench, which is especially formulated for summer feed conditions.� Farmers claim that their on-farm experience with Vetpack Summer Tonic, when used correctly, is that it can greatly assist in reducing the incidence and severity of ryegrass staggers. It is manufactured by Independent Veterinary Supplies Ltd and distributed through Veterinary Clinics to be used as required or as directed by a Veterinary Surgeon


We suggest you take the appropriate action to ensure your animals’ welfare is safeguarded during the period of risk. We also recommend that you consult your local Veterinarian for up-to-date information on ryegrass staggers in your area.

For further information, please contact us

Copper Deficiency

Copper Deficiency

Copper deficiency is most recognised in deer and cattle causing production losses through a sub-clinical deficiencies. On occasions, clinical signs will occur including poor locomotion, coat changes, poor reproductive performance, poor milk production, diarrhoea, weight loss and skeletal defects and reduced growth rates in growing animals.

Copper is commonly deficient in New Zealand soils and can be made more deficient by the application of certain other minerals such as Sulphur and Molybdenum. Animal species differ in their susceptibility, with deer being the most susceptible.

To check if your stock are copper deficient samples of blood or liver biopsy’s from 4 animals will give you a good indication of your herds copper levels.

Supplementation can be made to animals via several methods. The most reliable and economical in in Copper Oxide Capsules that last 8 to 12 months. Injectable products last 6 to 12 weeks and most oral applications are very short acting.  Copper can be applied through normal fertilisers which is convenient but expensive.

For advice or more information, please contact us.

Electrolytes for Horses

Electrolytes for Horses

In the past recommendations for electrolytes differed depending on the type of work the horse was doing. For example endurance horses were given acidic electrolyte solution with increased potassium levels to offset the alkalosis that occurred due to losing sweat over a long period.

Now the recommendation is to supplement electrolyte with the same formulation as horse sweat for all horses regardless of the work they are doing, but vary the amount given depending on the amount of sweating that is done.

Horse sweat is 10x the concentrations of human sweat! The main components are sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium and calcium. Horses can sweat 10-15 litres an hour, meaning they can lose a large volume of fluid rich in electrolytes that needs to be replaced in feed.

Horses don’t store sodium, potassium or chloride and so if they are sweating each day need to have these electrolytes replaced daily. Horses that are not involved in regular strenuous exercise and have access to good hay or pasture and a salt block are probably receiving adequate amounts of major elements.

Horses that sweat losing large amounts of sodium have a reduced thirst response e.g. when they should be drinking more, they don’t feel like they need a drink! Most importantly when horses have been working and you want to keep fluid intake up encourage drinking by supplying cool, clean fresh water.

Calf Scours

Calf Scours
Treating calf scours is a time consuming, frustrating business and the first thing to remember is that even though you will do your best you may not save them all. One of the first questions to ask when a calf gets scours is “Is it a nutritional or infectious scour?” A nutritional scour is often what’s called a ‘happy’ scour. The calf will often look otherwise healthy and still have a good appetite, although not always.

Nutritional scours are usually the result of:

a sudden change of feed (like colostrum to milk or milk replacer)
· a sudden change in feed volume (like twice day feeding to once day feeding)
· or mixing problems with milk replacer.
Changing brands or types of milk replacer can also cause a nutritional scour. Usually giving the calf 24 hours off milk and replacing those feeds with good quality electrolytes is all that is needed to stop the scour.

Infectious scours like Rotavirus, Cryptosporidium, Corona virus, Salmonella and E.coli will normally cause a sick, dehydrated looking calf. Contrary to popular opinion it is not possible to diagnose which bug is causing the problem just by the smell and colour of the scour. Faecal culture is needed on at least three scouring calves in an outbreak situation to get a picture of what is causing the problem. Getting a diagnosis is important for several reasons:
1. Some of the treatments differ slightly for different bacteria or viruses.
2. Some of the bugs will infect people and make them sick, especially children. This happens more often than you might think and examples include Salmonella and Cryptosporidium infections.
3. Knowing what is causing the problem can help in forming a prevention programme for next season e.g. using Rotavec in the cows pre-calving.
The most important treatment for infectious calf scours is still fluid/electrolyte replacement. If the calf has stopped drinking then it needs to be tube fed. A 40kg calf that has lost 10% of its bodyweight in lost fluids will need 4 litres just to correct the dehydration. This level of dehydration is not unusual in scouring calves. Add in the normal day to day needs of about 4 litres and that calf needs 8 litres of fluid in 24 hours. A calf can only take in 2 litres per feed so that means, ideally, 4 feeds of fluids in 24 hours. In most cases giving the calf 3 feeds every 24 hours over 2 to 3 days will correct the dehydration, but remember that 3 is the absolute minimum number of daily feeds for a scouring calf, twice daily is too little. You can check the level of dehydration in the calf by gently pulling down the bottom eyelid and looking at the gap between the eyelid and the eyeball. In a normal calf there is almost no gap (check a healthy calf first for comparison) and as the calf gets more and more dehydrated the eyeball will gradually sink away from the eyelid.

When it comes to electrolytes you generally get what you pay for. The better quality products such as ‘Diarrest’ have ingredients which give a fast and slow release of energy as well as correct the major electrolyte and acid imbalances that occur in scours. Cheaper products only provide some basic electrolyte replacement and a short term energy burst. As a general rule, if the calf is sick enough to need tube fed then use a better quality product. If the calf is still drinking then you can fill a feeder between milk feeds with a more basic electrolyte product and let the calf drink adlib.
New research has shown that keeping the calf on milk during a scour episode may actually speed up the recovery process as opposed to having 2 to 3 days of straight electrolytes. This is due to the milk having excellent energy levels, some localised gut protection activity and the correct proteins and amino acids to aid healing and stimulate the calf’s immune system. A standard fluid replacement programme for scouring calves is outlined below:
Day 1: Electrolytes (am) Milk (noon) Electrolytes (pm)
Day 2: Milk (am) Electrolytes (noon) Milk (pm)
Day 3: Milk (am) Electrolytes (noon) Milk (pm)
An alternative approach would be to give the calf 3 or 4 feeds of electrolytes on the first day and then go onto the above programme for days 2, 3, and 4.

Milk Fever & Grass Staggers (Hypomagnesaemia)

Milk Fever & Grass Staggers (Hypomagnesaemia)

Both these diseases are common around the time of calving or the onset of lactation. They are emergency conditions requiring urgent medical attention.


Milk Fever or Hypocalcaemia

Most common in cattle but seen in all species. In cattle this condition is most common in high producing cows of 5 to 9 years of age. It is usually seen within 72 hours of calving.

In sheep, it is seen over a longer span, 6 weeks before to 8 weeks after lambing.

Hypocalcaemia can also be seen with transport stress and grazing some plants that are high in oxalate.

Onset is associated with a disturbance in the blood calcium levels around the onset of lactation. In sheep, sudden changes of feed can precipitate and outbreak.

Animals may be found dead, but are more often seen with muscle tremors, depression, ataxic, hypothermic and in sternal to lateral recumbancy.

Treatment is urgent and requires replacement of calcium to the animals system. Calcium is given in the form of Calcium Borogluconate followed by some sustainable calcium in the form of Calol or headstart.

For further advice, please contact us.

Grass Staggers or Hypomagnesaemia.

Adult cattle and sheep cannot readily store and mobilise magnesium so they require a regular dietary intake to maintain blood levels.  Cold weather, lactation and malnutrition can precipitate clinical hypomagnesia. It is only common in cattle.

It is often seen on a falling plane of nutrition or rapidly growing spring pasture with cold changeable weather.

Cattle are often found dead, but may be seen as hyper-excitable, convulsing and dead within 1 to 2 hours.

Urgent treatment is required and involves the administration of Magnesium Sulphate under the skin and calcium borogluconate as well. Administration must be slow. Follow up oral dosing is required.

For further information, please contact us.

Clostridial Diseases

Clostridial Diseases

Clostridial diseases include Pulpy Kidney, Tetanus, Malignant Oedema, Black disease and Black Leg.
It is a little concerning that there are some farms that do not vaccinate against these diseases.  A comment I get when talking about clostridial vaccines is – “Why should I vaccinate when I don’t have the disease?”  A relevant question if you truly did not have the disease, but what did suddenly kill that well grown calf last autumn, or why did that weaner die and “blow up” so quick last spring.
The clostridial bacteria are plentiful.  They are in the environment, they are the bugs responsible for decomposing dead organic matter either animal or plant.  They can be found in the gut of animals.  When they get out of control – there is trouble.
Pulpy Kidney causes sudden death of calves after a change of feed – usually the biggest calf in the mob. 
Tetanus bacteria enter the body from a cut in the skin and lead to “lock jaw” and terminal seizures. 
Malignant Oedema (gas gangrene) gets in from skin wounds, which become necrotic, then gassy – the animal then succumbs to blood poisoning.
Black disease occurs secondarily to liver fluke infection.  The immature liver fluke damage the liver, allowing clostridial bacteria to multiple, causing tissue damage followed by blood poisoning and death.
Black leg causes necrosis and blackening of muscles (usually of the leg) followed by gas production, blood poisoning and death.

Treatment is usually unsuccessful
.  The progress of the disease is so rapid that animals are usually just found “dead”.
Traditionally these above diseases have been prevented by using “5 in 1” vaccines – e.g. Ultravac 5 in 1.  This is a good place to start, but in New Zealand we do have 6th bacteria which is not included in the 5 in 1.  Infection with this one causes “sudden death syndrome”
Covexin 10 protects against 10 types of clostridial infection that can be found overseas.  It is considered the gold standard for clostridial vaccination and is the vaccine of choice for cattle.
The normal vaccination protocol is a sensitizer dose followed a month later by a booster dose starting as early as 2 weeks old for Covexin 10, and starting at any age for Ultravac.  A booster dose is due every 12 months thereafter.

Caring for Your Pet Lamb

Caring for Your Pet Lamb

Caring for your pet lamb may seem simple, but there are a few things you need to aware of …

It is absolutely vital that the lamb has at least one feed of colostrum (milk from a ewe lambed within the last 24hrs) in its first day of life. Without this colostrum, the lamb has no immunity to diseases, and is unlikely to survive. Cow colostrum may be used as a last resort.

Lamb milk powder is best, but calf milk powder is OK. Both must be mixed according to packet instructions. DO NOT WATER DOWN the milk.

Keep the lamb dry and under cover for at least the first two weeks. It should have access to water at all times, and to grass or hay to nibble when it is one week old. Keep it away from poisonous plants e.g. rhododendrons.

In the natural state, lambs follow the ewe and drink small feeds often. Few pet lambs die of starvation (fortunately), but many die of overfeeding. New lambs need around 15% of bodyweight in milk over 24hrs, but in 6-8 feeds e.g. a 3kg lamb (this is an average size) needs 300-450mls of milk per 24hrs, but only 50-75mls per feed. The lamb will still appear hungry after this! Never feed the lamb until its stomach starts to bulge, or until it doesn’t want any more. Gradually increase the amount fed as the lamb grows. At 3 weeks old, 4 feeds of 250mls each per day should be about right. Lambs should have milk until about 12 to 14 weeks old.

To start with, you will need to put the feeding teat into the lamb’s mouth, and it may take several feeds before it learns to suck properly. Have patience!

If you want a nice big lamb for Pet Day, give a few calf crumbles, never more than ¼ cup per day.

Ram lambs should be castrated by putting a rubber ring around the neck of the scrotum, preferably before 2 weeks old. Tails may be docked at the same time. Consult your vet about tetanus prevention before doing this.

At 6 weeks old, the lamb should have a worm drench (ask your vet) and a vaccination for tetanus and pulpy kidney


Diseases of Farm Animals; lepto and yersiniosis

Diseases of Farm Animals; lepto and yersiniosis

Diseases of farm animals include and are not limited to, Yersiniosis and Leptospirosis.


This disease is most seen in deer but can be found in other species such as calves and goats.

In deer it is often a fatal enteric disease, mainly effecting young deer and usually precipitated by stress, such as feed changes, cold weather and weaning, hence it is usually seen in the winter time.

Weaner deer are mainly effected showing clinical signs of sudden death, blood tinged scouring, malaise and weakness. Often noticed when deer are shifted, some may lag behind and on close inspection will have faeces soiled hocks. It is often very contagious, spreading quickly to create ‘outbreak’ conditions. Significant losses can occur (25% or more).

Preventing the precipitating causes such as stress, transportation and feeding issues is important and if recognised treatment with antibiotics will prevent the spread of disease.

Prevention with vaccination (Yersinavax) is highly recommended as even with the best management, the disease can occur. This is a two dose vaccination programme given prior to the winter. For more information, please contact us.


This disease effects all animals, but is particularly recognised in cattle, dogs, pigs and deer. There are several strains and each strain can be more commonly seen in one animal species and causing a range of symptoms.

This disease is of Public Health Importance, so vaccination is recommended where people are likely to come into contact with animal secretions, especially urine. The bacteria can enter through skin abrasions and mucous membranes.

In all animals pyrixia, malaise and anorexia are common resulting in production losses. this is particularly noticed in young animals.  In addition, reproductive losses (abortion .. up tp 30% losses in deer) and mastitis are common.

Recent trial work in weaner deer showed a 6% weight gain in vaccinated stock versus non vaccinated stock. This is attributed to sub-clinical infections causing impaired growth rates in non-vaccinated deer.

Vaccines are available in 2 or 3 serotype products. For more information please contact us