Keep watch for milk fever

By Country News

Agriculture Victoria is urging farmers to keep an eye out for milk fever in their pregnant ewes.

Milk fever usually occurs in mature, fat ewes during the last six weeks of pregnancy or the first 10 days after lambing, although other classes of sheep may also be affected.

Agriculture Victoria district veterinary officer Jeff Cave described the most common times for milk fever to occur.

‘‘Hypocalcaemia (milk fever) often follows time off feed or stressful events such as shearing, crutching, transport, mustering or yarding,’’ he said.

‘‘Cases of hypocalcaemia can also occur during exposure to inclement weather.

‘‘Hypocalcaemia usually occurs on either rapidly growing pasture, green cereal crops, when feeding grain, or on pasture that has oxalate-containing plants such as sorrel and soursob.’’

Dr Cave said cases of milk fever were often weak or downed ewes and could be confused with pregnancy toxaemia (twin lamb disease).

‘‘Some notable differences between the two conditions is that hypocalcaemia has a rapid onset, affected sheep remain alert, cases occur on lush feed rather than lack of feed and a good response to the appropriate treatment is seen,’’ he said.

Dr Cave said sheep affected with milk fever should be treated as a matter of urgency with calcium solution, often known as 4-in-1, given under the skin.

■For further information, contact your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria animal health staff on 136 186.