Livestock infertility monitoring for disease Ovine brucellosis back on the radar for station owners

A station owner in far west New South Wales has decided to voluntarily check his livestock for the infertility disease Ovine brucellosis (OB) for the first time in four years, and is convinced it should be done more regularly.

Key points:

  • Remote graziers have not been able to check for endemic diseases for up to five years
  • Station owners have been part of a free animal health surveillance project
  • It is more difficult to test in the far west due to the distances fresh samples need to travel

Greg Martin owns Nelia Gaari station, about 150 kilometres east of Broken Hill, and manages around 2,000 sheep.

Lately, the grazier has seen issues with his lamb numbers and needed to find out what the problem was.

“They have been down for the last couple of times we’ve put the rams out, but we’re not sure whether it was to do with the rams or whether it was to do with the dry season,” he said.

So Mr Martin decided to get his rams tested for the first time in four years for OB, a bacterial infection which can leave livestock infertile.

He has not received the results back as yet, but is confident now he can head any problems off at the pass.

Why testing is important

Zi Yi Lim (right) has been working with stations across the far west in testing for various diseases.(ABC Broken Hill: Youssef Saudie)

Mr Martin said it was important to test his rams to ensure he did not lose the value of his livestock to a hidden enemy.

He was also able to get them tested for a series of other diseases as part of recently completed free, month-long animal health surveillance project.

“If they’re not fertile or they’ve got problems, well, they need to stay at home,” Mr Martin said.

“They’re not going to make you any money and are not going to breed you any lambs.”

He was one of several station owners from far west NSW who had not been able to do tests like these for up to five years due to the challenges of being so remote.

A row of blood samples. Blood samples are taken and sent to Sydney for testing.(ABC Broken Hill: Youssef Saudie)

A district veterinarian for the NSW’s government’s Local Land Services in Broken Hill, Zi Yi Lim, was part of changing that.

He travelled across the region as part of the disease testing and surveillance program and said the remoteness was one of the reasons stations like Mr Martin’s often missed out.

“The challenge of being out in the far west with diagnostic testing is we always have to be mindful of the transit time for our samples to get to the lab,” Dr Lim said.

“[Even] being a long way from anywhere, we are quite fortunate that we have multiple flights to Sydney on weekdays which we try to take advantage of when we’re sending our samples by air, to try to get the results as quickly as possible.”

Collecting these samples can help give vets valuable data on various endemic animal diseases in the far west region.

“By testing this mob and any other associated mobs we can hopefully check for the presence of a disease and if so, hopefully help eliminate it,” Mr Lim said.

After Mr Martin’s experience, he said it was important to undertake livestock tests more often, particularly for OB.

“It’s something that you should check on quite regularly, probably every year I think, as we’re learning as we’re going along,” he said.

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