Our vet team at McGraths Hill Veterinary Centre are experienced in treating large animals
Our friendly vet team are able to give advice on sheep, goats, alpacas, and cattle.
We also offer a housecall service (on certain days) for large animals if there are appropriate facilities available (this includes small holding pen or race for goats and sheep and a crush for ALL cattle). Our practice routinely stocks large animal vaccines and medications for your convenience.
If you have any questions about your animals or our services for large animals, give us a call on 4587 9000.
We have provided some general information and health care advice below for your information.
Care of Sheep
It is important to disinfect the navel
The navel of a newborn lamb is a possible route for infectious agents. Navel cords more than 2 inches long should be clipped closer to the body. To avoid infections, navel stumps should be disinfected soon after birth. Spray or dip the navel area with an antiseptic solution such as Gentle Iodine (1% iodine), Betadine®, or Chlorhexidine (Nolvasan®).
Colostrum is the "first milk" that a ewe produces after lambing. Colostrum contains a high level of several nutrients that are important for lamb health and performance. Colostrum also contains a high level of antibodies against a variety of infectious agents. At birth, the lamb does not carry any antibodies because antibodies in the ewe's bloodstream do not cross the placenta.
It is critical that lambs receive colostrum during the first 24 hours of life in order to ensure adequate absorption of colostral antibodies. Antibodies are large protein molecules that can cross the intestinal wall and enter the blood stream of the lamb only during the first 24 to 36 hours of life. Absorption of these antibodies is most efficient during the first few hours after birth. It is recommended that lambs receive 10 percent of the body weight in colostrum by 24 hours after birth.
Sheep are vaccinated to protect against some of the common serious infectious diseases. Vaccination stimulates the body’s defence system to build immunity to a particular disease, by exposing sheep to either the live organism presented in a safe form (e.g. scabby mouth or anthrax vaccines), or to a killed or inactivated organism or part of an organism (e.g. the clostridial vaccines).
Vaccinations in an annual program, require an initial dose in the first year followed by a booster dose 4 to 6 weeks later to provide maximum protection.
Clostridial (5 in 1) vaccination
The clostridial diseases enterotoxaemia (pulpy kidney), tetanus, blackleg, black disease, malignant oedema and swelled head in rams can all be prevented by vaccination. Vaccines are available either as 5-in-1, which protects against all of the above, or 2-in-1, which protects against pulpy kidney and tetanus only.
Lambs tails require docking to prevent flyblow. This should be done at 2-4 weeks of age
Care of Alpacas
Alpacas require monthly worming, this should be an Ivomectin based product. However rotating the worming medication is important to avoid the parasites becoming resistant to the wormer.
Alpacas require regular attention to their toenails, which require trimming. To avoid the toenails growing long causing lameness and pain. Alpacas need sheering once a year in the spring time.
Vaccination - Alpacas should be vaccinated with a 5 in 1 vaccination once a year.
Ask our team about how we can help with your alpaca's healthcare routine.
Care of Cattle
The presence of worms can decrease a cow’s ability to use feed effectively. Poor nutrition may cause stock to have a lower resistance to parasite infestation. Worm burdens can increase if stock are regularly fed on the ground in the same area. Close grazing of pasture can increase the chance of picking up worms. Before treating dry cows ensure that the withhold period of the treatment is less than the remaining time of pregnancy, otherwise milk will have to be withheld after calving.
If stock have access to wet areas, which may be the only green feed on the farm, consider treating for liver fluke. Seek veterinary advice before drenching for liver fluke in milking cows.
Ticks, lice and buffalo flies have a greater effect on animals in poor condition or under stress. Apply appropriate treatments to control these parasites according to label instructions. Always check that the product is suitable for the type of animals such as milking cows. Observe all withholding periods.
Clostridial and other environmental diseases
Ensure that all animals are part of an effective 5-in-1 or 7-in-1 vaccination program. The incidence of clostridial diseases increases when animals graze short and sparse pastures. Hand-feeding on the ground may also increase the incidence.
Vaccinate calves from 6 weeks of age. Two doses are required, 4 to 6 weeks apart. Give the first dose 4 to 6 weeks before marking and a booster at marking. Previously unvaccinated adult stock should receive two doses 4 to 6 weeks apart. Then an annual booster after the initial two injections.
Care of Horses
Vaccinations against tetanus and strangles are routinely given to horses. Vaccinations should be given because these diseases can be severe and fatal. They are reasonably common, protection following vaccination is generally excellent provided regular boosters are given. The cost of the vaccination is very cheap when compared with the cost of attempted treatment and the value of the horse.
This bacterial disease causes fatal tetany in about 80 per cent of infected horses.
The organism Clostridium tetani, which causes the disease, lives in soil and manure. It enters the body through wounds. The bacteria multiply only in sites where there is a poor oxygen supply, such as in deep wounds. The time from when the bacteria first begin producing toxins to the first signs of tetanus may be 1–3 weeks, typically 9–10 days. The bacteria produce a powerful nerve toxin, which causes a progressive contraction (cramp) of many muscles of the body. Death follows within a few days of the signs first appearing.
The first sign of the disease may be a difference in the animal’s normal resting stance, its behaviour and the way it moves. There is muscle stiffness, especially of the muscles of the face and legs. The ears become erect and the tail stiff, and the animal may be unable to eat. An increasing number of the body’s muscles then go into spasm, including a characteristic spasm of the third eyelid when the side of the face is slapped. A very painful death occurs.
Treatment necessitates very intense nursing care and the use of sedatives and muscle relaxants, antibiotics, antitoxin and in some cases tube feeding if the animal is unable to eat. Early treatment is essential to give any hope of success, and a veterinarian should be consulted immediately tetanus is suspected.
Strangles is a disease of the upper respiratory system and the lymph nodes of the head. It is caused by the organism Streptococcus equi. It rapidly spreads from horse to horse through coughing, or by the horse eating or drinking infective droplets. The discharge may remain infective for over a month.
Within 3–8 days of becoming infected, the horse will show a fever (39.5–40.5°C). The throat and larynx become so extremely inflamed that swallowing food or water becomes very painful or impossible. The lymph nodes of the head become swollen and very painful, and may eventually burst and discharge a thick creamy yellow pus.
Occasionally the infection spreads to other parts of the body, when it is then known as ‘bastard strangles’. This form is difficult and sometimes impossible to cure. Treatment involves isolation, antibiotics and supportive nursing. Disinfection of saddlery, grooming equipment, food boxes etc. must be done to stop transmission of the disease to other horses.
The vaccination program that is best for your horse can be determined through discussion with our veterinarians.
When to Vaccinate - Tetanus and strangles
• Foals can be started on their vaccination course against both diseases at about 12 weeks of age.
• Protection for the first 12 weeks of life occurs if a previously vaccinated mare is given another booster at least 2–6 weeks before foaling.
• Strangles and tetanus both require two or more primary doses at specific time intervals to produce effective immunity.
• All horses should be vaccinated against tetanus because of the widespread occurrence of the organism.
• Boosters with tetanus toxoid should be given at the time of injury, as this gives good immunity after the initial course. Boosters are required at intervals of no longer than 5 years.
• Tetanus antitoxin will give immediate but short-term protection to injured foals or horses not previously vaccinated with tetanus toxoid. This protection will last at most only about 3 weeks. The tetanus toxoid and antitoxin may be administered at the one time if different injection sites are used – preferably on different sides of the body.
• Strangles is a disease transmitted from horse to horse – animals that remain in isolation are not at risk. Horses attending studs, shows or camps, or those which are away on agistment, are at risk, and epidemics may follow such events. These horses should be vaccinated throughout their life.
• Boosters should be given annually.
• Unfortunately the strangles vaccine is not as effective as the tetanus vaccine. Occasionally the disease occurs in horses which have been vaccinated. However, vaccination is still recommended to reduce risks.
If you have any questions about the health of your animals, please contact our vet team on: