Item 4 of 6
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Keep Watch

Dan Hickey April 22, 2020
Heard Health & Welfare

Watch for sporadic diseases and disorders

Guidelines for managing sporadic diseases

Develop a routine to record details of diseased cattle or deaths whenever they occur. You also need to decide how and where to keep a record of:

  • when an animal is suspected of having a disease
  • when an animal has died
  • when an animal unexpectedly fails to meet a production target.

Keep records of diseased cattle and map areas where deaths occur

Record keeping is particularly important for large herd operations where more than one stock person looks after the cattle. Records need to include individual animal identification, its mob or herd, its immediate grazing history and all previous animal health treatments.

Animal identification tags and computer software programs for record-keeping are commercially available.

Electronic tags make animals traceable when they leave the property. They also enable the efficient use of automated record-keeping systems to store information electronically. This includes animal health records and production records, such as liveweights, calves weaned and other animal productivity data.

National Livestock Identification System

The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) is Australia’s system for the identification and traceability of livestock. It was introduced in 1999 to meet European Union requirements for cattle exports. It enables cattle to be traced from property of birth to slaughter for:

  • biosecurity
  • meat safety
  • product integrity
  • market access.

NLIS is endorsed by major producer, feedlot, agent, saleyard and processor bodies. It is underpinned by state and territory legislation, which forms the regulatory framework for the system.

All cattle are required to be tagged with an NLIS-approved radio frequency identification device (RFID), and all movements or transactions must be recorded on the NLIS database.

Further information is available at NLIS Cattle on the MLA website, and from your local NLIS authority (see Tool 6.6).

Good records are the basis of quality assurance

You can implement any recognised quality assurance program based on keeping good records and established veterinary codes of practice for cattle health and welfare. This may also provide access to new markets or better prices.

Livestock Production Assurance

Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) is a program that underpins the National Vendor Declaration and Waybill (NVD/Waybill), which upholds Australia’s reputation as a world leader in meat and livestock food safety.

LPA is a simple on-farm food safety program that enables producers to back up claims made on the NVD/Waybills. When producers sign an NVD/Waybill, they are showing their compliance with LPA.

LPA focuses on food safety management, which considers five key elements or areas of compliance, each with a food safety outcome aimed at ensuring meat from livestock is fit for human consumption. LPA is a vital component for effectively managing on-farm risk. Most producers will find that they already meet the LPA food safety outcomes, and can provide this through current records.

An example of the NVD/Waybill is provided in Tool 6.4, and further information on the program is available at Livestock Production Assurance on the MLA website.

Collect abattoir feedback whenever possible

Feedback from abattoirs can provide an early warning of the incidence of disease in the herd. Where possible, collect abattoir feedback whenever cattle are slaughtered.

Seek veterinary advice for unexplained health problems

If an uncommon or unexplained health problem occurs, seek professional advice from your local veterinarian or state department of primary industries and agriculture (see Tool 6.6). In these cases, your records provide crucial information.

Also check that there are no toxic plants or contaminated feeds accessible to your herd. A selection of references for the identification of toxic plants and noxious weeds is included in Tool 6.6.


What to measure and when

Regularly observe your animals grazing at pasture and weigh them occasionally to record:

  • pasture and animal condition score at least monthly
  • liveweight gain of growing steers and heifers for comparison against that expected from the feed on offer (FOO)
  • cow breeding (reproductive) performance, including pregnancy rate dystocia rate and calving percentage.

More information of specific reproductive management issues can be found in Module 5: Weaner throughput.

Note: You do not have to weigh every animal every time. Depending on mob size, a sample of about 10–20% is sufficient to estimate and monitor a mob’s liveweight gain or loss.

Also record:

  • any dead or diseased animals
  • amount and quality of supplementary feed provided (and relate to livestock performance)
  • identification or management of noxious weeds and toxic plants (see Tool 6.6)
  • abattoir feedback whenever cattle are sold (and information is available).

Further information