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A Case study of 'winter scours' in sheep in SA Mallee caused by nutrient deficiencies

Jeremy Rogers, Senior Veterinary Officer, Biosecurity South Australia

Posted Flock & Herd September 2021


'Winter scours' syndrome in adult sheep and weaner lambs is a regularly occurring issue in some sheep flocks in particular parts of the southern Mallee in SA. The syndrome occurs sporadically, usually in better years when there is early growth or improved rainfall conditions and there is lush abundant growth of pasture and weeds.

In the winter of 2020 an area of southern Mallee (with mostly light sandy soils) experienced very good pasture and crop growth conditions through June, July and August. A number of producers in the area experienced a scour syndrome in adult sheep and lambs, and some of these contacted the local veterinary practice for assistance. A variety of diagnoses were made, but in the course of investigations it became apparent that scours were an ongoing and regular issue on some properties that did not appear to be related to internal parasites or bacterial infections. In some cases sheep genetics were blamed, some cases were never resolved.

Detailed investigationĀ  of one property that had between 80-100% of lambs and ewes scouring, but no deaths, revealed that macro and trace element imbalances appeared to be responsible, and a series of recommendations were made.

This case illustrated to me the benefit of a multi-discipline approach using plant tissue analysis to arrive at a diagnosis. Veterinary practitioners are perhaps less familiar with these techniques and interpreting results, but they should be aware of their existence as an aid to diagnosis in complex events and farm management.


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