What you should do before restocking after drought, fire

Tips for restocking after drought, fire

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Producers across the country are beginning to restock after drought and fire but a prominent NSW vet has warned against rushing into things.

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Coonamble, NSW, vet Jillian Kelly says it's crucial producers conduct a thorough investigation before restocking.

Coonamble, NSW, vet Jillian Kelly says it's crucial producers conduct a thorough investigation before restocking.

Producers across the country are beginning to restock after drought and fire but a prominent NSW vet has warned against rushing into things.

Central West NSW Local Land Services district vet Jillian Kelly said it was crucial producers conducted a thorough investigation before purchasing stock.

"If you just jump in and buy the first mob that becomes available, you'll have headaches down the track," Dr Kelly said.

"Ask lots of questions; speak to the vendor or their agent if you can, and ask questions at your end too of your vet, your agent or your livestock advisor."

She said it was important to get out your farm biosecurity plan to check that the stock you wanted to purchase aligned with the standards that were in your plan.

"You should have a farm biosecurity plan, and it's not a document that should be sitting in a dusty cupboard, you should refresh and refer to it often," she said.

She said an important step in the process was requesting a health declaration from the vendor to conduct a risk assessment.

And this was something that should be done before, not after, you buy stock.

"It's useful to have a [health declaration document] at home so you can look at the questions and figure out what they mean before going and buying stock," she said.

She said there were a handful of diseases that sheep producers needed to have in the back of their minds when looking at the health declarations.

"First up is Johne's Disease, there are some good questions on the [health declaration] that you can use to make an assessment," she said.

"Are all sheep from a flock with a negative test for Johne's Disease?

"What are the number of different sources of sheep that have been introduced onto the property in the last few years?

"If people are trading often, with lots of animals in and out, that's something to think about."

She said moving into a wetter period, the risk of footrot was higher.

"You don't want to get footrot on your farm," she said.

"Not only do you want sheep that are sound and don't have sore feet, but you also want a level of surety from the declaration so that if the sheep get to your farm and have a problem, you can refer to the form and say 'well they were free [from footrot] when they got here'."

Other things to look for were that the sheep were free of lice and that they were coming from a Brucellosis-free farm.

Dr Kelly said it was also beneficial to look at the National Vendor Declaration, and it was "handy if you could get access to this prior to buying their sheep".

"It means you can look at things like the farm's chemical residue status, what's been fed, whether they've been grazing crops, and more," she said.

She said if you were unsure about anything to pick up the phone and ask somebody.

"There are heaps of people out there with heaps of skills which can help with the risk of stock coming in," she said.

What if you're agisting?

Dr Kelly said if you were receiving stock on agistment, all of the same assessments applied.

"Do they align with your plan? What weeds, pests or diseases may they bring to your farm?" she said.

She said if you were sending stock to someone else's property, it was important to look at the status of that farm.

"Can you bring them home with the same status as the one you sent them with?" she said.

If you're the lucky bidder

Once you've placed the winning bid, your work doesn't stop there.

Dr Kelly said it was important to make sure your new sheep would be going to an area that you had checked beforehand.

"Go and have a look at your property and see what sort of plant species have grown since the fire or drought," she said.

"Some weird things can grow after land has been bared for so long."

She said a sudden drop in temperature, as well as wet weather, could be deadly to stock in transit.

"Animals carted and unloaded in wet weather have a much higher risk of getting foot issues and pneumonia, so if bad weather's coming, maybe try and delay the trucking if you can," she said.

Dr Kelly said you must ensure the sheep were fit to load.

"Sheep being fit to load is everyone's responsibility," she said.

"Not only the vendor and the person who loaded the truck and the truck driver, it's also the person that receives them."

She said inspect each of the sheep as they came off the truck, checking to see if any were lame or looked ill.

She advised against unloading at night, as things would go wrong in the dark.

When they're on the farm

Dr Kelly recommended quarantine drenching and vaccinating your sheep upon arrival.

She said it was worthwhile to put them in holding yards to make checking them easy.

"Feed them hay and a mineral lick for the first 1-2 days to let their guts adjust," she said.

"Check them daily just in case anything's not quite right."

She said to leave the sheep in the secure paddock for three days after drenching to allow them to empty all of the parasites out.

"That's so they're all deposited on the one paddock, and you can spell that paddock and not graze it to kill the larvae on the pasture," she said.

She said a sudden intake of green feed could be harmful to your new sheep.

"A lot have come from drought-affected areas, so if they get a big bit of green feed, suddenly their feet are in the air," she said.

She said when you were ready to let them out of the containment yards, do so in the afternoon.

"Feed them hay in the morning, and let them out in the afternoon, so they don't guts the feed when they get out," she said.

She said a common problem she had been seeing was sheep dying of water deprivation because they didn't know where the water trough was.

"Show them where the water is several times," she said.

What to look out for

Dr Kelly said she had seen a lot of cases of nitrate poisoning recently.

This occurred when animals suddenly ate more plants that have high nitrate levels, which are known to build up specifically in plants after drought.

"The blood then can't carry oxygen to the tissues so they essentially die from suffocation," she said.

She said there was a long list of plants that would cause nitrate poisoning, and it was important to reach out to your vet if you had any concerns.

Dr Kelly said metabolic problems - caused by having low amounts of calcium and magnesium in the blood - were common with stock coming straight off trucks.

"Calcium is vital for muscle function and a lot of drought diets are low in calcium," she said.

"When animals' bellies are empty and they are stressed out, they can get very low in calcium and magnesium."

She said the problem was easily fixed with the supplementation of minerals and "filling their bellies up".

Other problems to look out for were bloat, pulpy kidney, plant poisoning, severe lameness and respiratory disease.

Dr Kelly said contacting your vet to get a diagnosis was the best measure to take if you had any concerns.

The story What you should do before restocking after drought, fire first appeared on Farm Online.

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