3 - Watch for sporadic diseases and disorders

Download the full module

Guidelines for managing sporadic diseases

Develop a routine to record details of diseased cattle or deaths whenever they occur.

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

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

National Livestock Identification System

The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) is Australia's system for identification and traceability of livestock. It was introduced in 1999 to meet European Union requirements for cattle exports. Since then it has expanded to enable 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. In addition to this 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 device (either an ear tag or rumen bolus/ear tag combination) and all movements or transactions must be recorded on the NLIS database.

Further information on NLIS is available from your local NLIS authority (see Tool 6.08).

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

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 and/or better prices.

Livestock Production Assurance

Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) is a program that underpins the National Vendor Declaration and Waybill (LPA 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, which enables producers to back up claims made on the LPA NVD/Waybills. When producers sign an LPA 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 Livestock Production Assurance food safety outcomes and can prove this through current records.

Collect and read abattoir feedback whenever possible

Feedback from abattoirs can provide an early warning of the incidence of disease in the herd. It is recommended that you collect and read abattoir feedback whenever possible.

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 industry and agriculture. 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 6.03.


What to measure and when

Regularly observe your animals grazing behaviour. Make records of:

  • feedbase/vegetation condition during water runs and animal condition scores when mustering and bringing cattle into yards
  • cow reproductive performance including pregnancy rate, dystocia rate and calving percentage
  • any diseased, or deceased, animals
  • information on identification and/or management of noxious weeds and toxic plants
  • information collected from abattoir feedback, whenever this information is available.