Alert for Three-Day Sickness

30th April 2018

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services urges cattle producers to be vigilant for signs of Three-day Sickness in stock after numerous cases have been reported around the Inverell district. Otherwise known as Bovine Ephemeral Fever, the virus is spread by biting midges and is normally associated with wet summers in Queensland and weather events out of the northwest.

Outbreaks normally occur in waves every four to five years. Northern Tablelands LLS District Vet Andrew Biddle said the recent outbreak has travelled into the area from the east. The Tenterfield area has been particularly hard hit this year. He advised producers to be on alert for symptoms.

“It’s called Three-day Sickness because animals that are infected typically show clinical signs for three to five days,” Andrew said.

“The animals develop a temperature in response to the virus and this is the cause of many of the clinical signs. They appear depressed and lethargic and are reluctant to move around. When encouraged to stand or move around they’ll often appear as if they’re lame in one leg or stiff with an uncomfortable gait. They will also often drool from the mouth. Animals tend to just lie down.”

Andrew said animals who lay down for prolonged periods are a cause for concern. Stock most at risk are heavier animals, such as bulls, bullocks and large, mature cows. Once on the ground, the danger is muscle and nerve damage from which some animals cannot recover. It is important to continue to encourage the animal to stand up.

“Because they’re large animals, they sit with their legs tucked under them, and they develop a muscle weakness and an inability to actually get up. So, they may recover from Three-day Sickness, but they’re essentially cast, or down, and can’t get up again,” he explained.

Early intervention with anti-inflammatories may help to alleviate the joint and muscle pain that causes animals to lie down for extended periods.  Andrew advised producers with cattle already on the ground to provide easily accessible water and good-quality hay to maintain the animals’ health.

Though the virus can run its course in just a few days, its associated fever may cause bulls to become infertile temporarily or occasionally permanently. Andrew said producers should consider vaccination of bulls against the virus to protect their breeding potential, although it is probably too late to provide protection in the current outbreak.

He stressed that if a producer observes early signs of Three-day Sickness, immediate action is critical.

“It’s being vigilant, monitoring the health of stock, and if they’re concerned, contact their veterinarian or Local Land Services for more information,” Andrew said.

To learn more about Three-day Sickness contact any of the Northern Tablelands Local Land Services Biosecurity team on 02 6732 8800.

Media contact: Annabelle Monie, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services 02 6720 8317, 0429 626 326, 

Click for larger photo