North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian team is warning cattle producers about an increase in the number of cases of plant poisonings in livestock in recent weeks.
Plant poisoning usually occurs when cattle are introduced to unfamiliar surroundings containing toxic plants or when other feed is scarce, and animals go in search of the green pick.
District Veterinarian, Dr Liz Bolin said with much of the region suffering from a prolonged dry spell, low pasture reserves are leading to an increase in plant poisoning cases.
"Common plant poisonings on the North Coast include Bracken fern, Red lantana, Mother of millions, Green cestrum and Oleander" Dr Bolin said.
"Symptoms of poisoning can include loss of appetite, depression, loss of body condition, recumbency (lying down, leaning) and death" said Dr Bolin.
Dr Bolin explained signs will vary depending on the plant eaten. Indications a cow may have eaten Bracken fern include black tarry faeces and pale gums. Cattle with Red lantana poisoning may display shade-seeking behaviour, whereas stock with Oleander, Mother of millions or Green cestrum poisoning die suddenly, often without the owner seeing any signs. Livestock owners should contact their veterinarian to discuss unusual symptoms.
For those fortunate to have received recent rainfall nitrate poisoning may be a risk. Nitrate levels can be high in some pasture species, especially when rain follows a dry period and when nitrogen fertiliser has recently been applied.Nitrate poisoning can cause sudden death, although diarrhoea, salivation, respiratory difficulty and signs of abdominal pain may be seen.
"Nitrate levels in the plants will vary during the day with levels highest in the morning, care should be taken, especially when introducing hungry stock into risky paddocks," Dr Bolin said.
Cases of nitrate poisoning have also occurred where cattle have been fed hay high in nitrates. When supplementary feeding it is important to introduce new feeds slowly
"When buying in feed we recommend, producers request a commodity vendor declaration, which provides information about residue risks. Cattle should be up to date with 5 in 1 or 7 in 1 vaccination, and if feeding silage consider vaccination against botulism" Dr Bolin added.
For more information or if you suspect your cattle may be suffering from plant toxicity, contact your private veterinarian or the North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian on 1300 795 299.