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Farmers face loss as Bovine Ephemeral Fever grips Hunter


Hunter farmers are being warned of a devastating illness that’s spreading rapidly through the region’s livestock. 

Bovine Ephemeral Fever (BEF), also known as “three-day sickness”, has been confirmed by laboratory testing in cattle near Wingham and Gloucester in recent days. 

The Hunter Local Land Services District Veterinarian team has also reported cases at Cooloongolook, Stroud, Dungog, Gresford and Seaham. 

Spanning cases it says, indicates the disease is spreading rapidly. 

“Affected cattle are often by themselves, off their feed, seek shade and water, shiver, drool and are lame,” says Hunter Local Land Services district veterinarian Lyndell Stone. 

“These signs usually last only a few days and most cattle recover uneventfully. However, reports from Queensland, where the disease was seen earlier in the season, suggest that cases this year seem to be more severe.  

”Some cattle, especially bulls and heavier conditioned cattle, may go down and take several days to get back on their feet, increasing the risk of secondary complications.  

“More severe lesions in the nerves of some animals may result in some individuals being down or wobbly for prolonged periods.   

“Pregnant cows may abort, and bulls may become infertile for up to six months.   

“Milk production can drop significantly in lactating cows.” 

BEF is an insect-transmitted virus that causes cattle to have a high fever and pain in the muscles and joints.   

Cattle that have previously been exposed will have developed an immunity to the disease.  

Previous widespread outbreaks in the Hunter region occurred in early 2022 and autumn 2020.  

The present outbreak can be expected to mainly affect locally bred cattle less than two years of age, as well as cattle of any age which have been brought into our area from southern and western parts of NSW (or from Victoria, Tasmania or South Australia) where immunity from previous exposure is unlikely.   

Sometimes older cattle miss infection in previous years and can succumb along with the younger stock. 

Bovine Ephemeral Fever has been detected in cattle in the Hunter region.

Daily checks are required of all cattle. 

“The virus usually appears on the Mid-North Coast and Hunter as the temperature and rainfall increase, stimulating increases in the populations of the biting insects that transmit it,” says Ms Stone.  

“Given that protection from vaccination requires two doses of vaccine given at least two weeks apart, cattle owners in or close to areas where the disease is already present have probably left it too late to vaccinate.  

“Medication is highly effective in bringing down the fever and reducing the muscle and joint pain, improving recovery timeframes and resulting in less weight loss.  

“There are several other diseases that may resemble three-day sickness requiring alternative treatment, so veterinary diagnosis is recommended.  

”Affected cattle should be provided with shade and water, and feed once they regain an appetite.   

“If they are unable to get up after a day or two, they should be turned or lifted twice daily to help prevent secondary complications.” 

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