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Moving stock? Think about your Theileria risks

Moving stock? Think about your Theileria risks

Tuesday March 10, 2015

Industry body DairyNZ is warning farmers to assess the risks to their herds from the tick-borne disease Theileria if they are moving stock this autumn and winter.
DairyNZ veterinarian and technical policy advisor, Nita Harding, says stock out at grazing such as heifers that will be coming onto the farm could pose a risk, or be at risk of Theileria, depending on the situation on farm.

Nita says farmers can help the industry and veterinarians manage and prevent the spread of the disease if they are moving cattle between Theileria zones this season.

"Pregnant cattle are at the highest risk. Other stock classes appear not to be as susceptible," she says.

"To assess your risk you need to understand your current level of risk where you farm and the risk of the area that the cattle are moving from or to. We've subdivided the country into three general zones, based on our current knowledge of tick distribution and farms on which the disease has been confirmed," she says.

"Essentially we have stable, unstable and free areas - and they equate to high, moderate and low risk areas for Theileria. High performing animals from free and unstable areas moving into stable areas are at particularly high risk. We're strongly recommending that farmers shouldn't bring in pregnant heifers and cows from tick free areas into stable areas without seeking veterinary advice. Sharemilkers who are forming their herds or farmers undertaking conversions and forming new herds need to take particular care."

If you are buying in replacements or are building a herd from multiple sources, it is a lot more complicated to assess the risk of Theileria to your farm, she says.

"Remember there could be multiple diseases that could pose a risk to your farm so it's important to talk to your veterinarian and do a bit of risk assessment and management planning."

Franklin Vets managing director Mark Hosking says there is a movement risk tool on the Franklin Vets' website ( ) which farmers can quickly use to see what risk they may face.

There is also advice on DairyNZ's website and the New Zealand Veterinarians' Association website

"We've dealt with a lot of cases in our area so we have worked to help others across the country to understand the disease. For people who are moving stock into areas with ticks, we would strongly advise that they carry out blood tests to determine if the animals being moved have been exposed to the parasite. If they have been exposed then there should be relatively little risk of them developing clinical disease. However if they haven't come across the parasite before then they will be at a high risk of breaking down with clinical theileriosis.

"If you are moving animals from one property to another, it is paramount that you try to assess the risk you face of running into problems," says Mark.

"Farmers should avoid exposing naïve animals to infected ticks six to eight weeks prior to calving/peak milk production. Most naïve dairy animals arrive into infected areas in May/June, two months prior to the major stress of calving and milk production," he says.


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