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This article was published in 1958
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Case Reports

G. CHARLES, B.V.Sc., Veterinary Inspector, Forbes


A stockowner in this district purchased a nine-month-old Shorthorn bull from a nearby breeder. On the delivery day great difficulty was experienced in getting the bull through one paddock in which there was a cow in oestrus, and recourse was made to liberal use of the stockwhip. The bull was transported to the new owner's property where he was placed with a herd of 10 cows. From then on he evinced no interest at all in the cows, even during oestrus when he would only sniff the vulval area and then usually retire to the far end of the paddock. His disinterest was so marked that he showed no antagonism to a neighbour's bull, who would come through several fences and serve the cows.

After some seven or eight months of such behaviour the owner and vendor requested an examination of the bull with a view to possible replacement. The examination was timed to coincide with the presence of a cow in oestrus in the herd, when the facts related above were confirmed. Physical examination was carried out, paying particular attention to the penis and testes, but no abnormalities could be found; nor was there any evidence of any systemic disease, which could be held responsible for the complete lack of libido.

After due consideration of the history and lack of clinical findings, it was concluded that the virtual flogging administered to the bull, as a calf, could have resulted in a psychosis; wherein he associated oestrus in a cow with a considerable amount of pain to himself, and that this had set up a "block" mechanism, thus inhibiting any display of normal sexual characteristics. It was felt that the trouble could be overcome if the bull could be induced once to serve a cow, and to achieve this it would be necessary to overcome the existing fear complex. It appeared that this object might be attained best by increasing the sex hormone level to a point where it would overcome the fear or "block", already in existence.

These conclusions were put to the two men concerned, and with their approval a subcutaneous implant of testosterone was inserted aseptically just posterior of the left shoulder. The rate of absorption of this implant, according to the manufacturers, was such that it was sufficient for a period of 90 days. Following implantation the bull was returned to the herd and kept under observation. Three weeks later he showed increased interest in a cow in oestrus, but actual service did not take place although he never left the cow. However, within the next succeeding three weeks his attitude underwent a complete change and when the cow returned to service, he served her twice and then drove the neighbour's bull back home. Since then he has been satisfactory in his work and has shown an unabated interest over the past two years.

Whether this animal was suffering from a type of conditioned reflex or an outright fear complex would be hard to say, and little information on the occurrence of such behaviour patterns in animals is available, so that the reasoning leading to the selection of this treatment may be open to doubt, but from the end result it is apparent that the selected treatment was the correct one.


An owner in this District reported the death of 7 of a litter of 10 sucking pigs, and that 9 others were similarly affected, and he requested assistance. On visiting the property it was found that three litters were involved; 12 then being dead, 3 in an advanced stage of the disease and 2 in what appeared to be an early stage, while 5 were unaffected. The shelters were dry and amply supplied with straw bedding, but the yards were wet and muddy. The sows were apparently healthy and had ample milk for their litters. The original litter of 10 had been farrowed in the open, under a kurrajong tree, in a nest of black grass and horehound, and had been moved to the sty on the second day, when they had contact with the other litters. The affected pigs were all cross-bred suckers aged from 9 to 12 days.

Affected pigs exhibited a sequence of symptoms, commencing with a swelling of the eyelids and ears, but with no ocular discharge. Some showed a slight muco purulent nasal discharge while others did not. At this stage there was a slight fever and respiratory increase. After about 24 hours the skin in the axillae and along the belly showed a slight exudation of a serous type, and within the 24 hours next following, the skin became dark, almost black, leathery in texture, and the superficial layers separated. Eventually the whole skin surface became affected, the eyelids and ears being so stiff and hard as to inhibit movement completely. At this stage the affected pigs exhibited a foetid odour, not unlike that encountered in dogs suffering from advanced eczema or sarcoptic mange. The piglets died at about this point; not having suckled for several days. The condition appeared to be a superficial necrosis of the epidermis. As no mange mites were found in scrapings from the skin, it was thought that the condition was one of photosensitisation or possibly due to irritation of the skin by the fibres from the kurrajong seed pods.

Post-mortem examination revealed no apparent abnormality except for engorgement of the mesenteric blood vessels, but this probably was associated with a mild attack of "white scours" in the pig examined. Pipettes from various organs and sections of skin in preservative were submitted for examination.

No significant bacteria were recovered from the pipettes and histological examination of the skin sections revealed an almost complete absence of the epidermis without apparent reason; there being no inflammatory reaction and the dermis and subcutis appearing normal.

Intra-muscular injections of 500,000 units of penicillin were given to 2 cases, and a further 2 were each given 10 mgms of "Phenergan", a proprietary antihistamine, per os. Neither treatment was of any value; no response at all being obtained. In all, 18 of the 19 affected piglets died, and the sole survivor, after shedding a comparatively small amount of epidermis, made a slow recovery.

The lack of an inflammatory reaction in the skin eliminated the possibility of photosensitivity or kurrajong irritation. There was no relationship between the sows and the boar so that there were no grounds for suspecting a genetic factor to be operating. The fact that the condition spread into two other litters could indicate some infective agent, but 5 suckers remained unaffected although in very close contact with the affected ones. No references can be found to any similar condition, most skin conditions being accompanied by some degree of inflammation, and the etiology of this condition was not determined.

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