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Kikuyu warning renewed after spate of cattle deaths in Hunter region

Hunter Local Land Services is urging landholders to watch their cattle closely for symptoms of kikuyu poisoning, after more than 100 deaths in the region in recent weeks.
Kikuyu poisoning has been confirmed on more than a dozen properties, with some producers losing up to 20 head of cattle in one herd.
Hunter Local Land Services District Vet Digby Rayward said farmers need to stay vigilant, as further poisoning cases could still occur.
“Generally cattle will avoid the affected kikuyu pasture and the poisoning occurs when they have no other feed options,” said Digby.
“Wherever possible provide alternate feed sources such as round bales or silage, or leave gates open to allow access to paddocks with other pasture types.”
Clinical signs that may be seen in cattle with kikuyu poisoning include drooling, sham drinking, dehydration, abdominal pain, distended rumen, lack of coordination, staggering, lying down and reluctant to move.
Digby Rayward said it appears to have been an unfortunate combination of seasonal conditions that has led to these deaths, which are taking a toll on affected farmers.
“It’s a dreadful thing to lose your livestock, and unfortunately this year the late summer rain on the back of extreme drought conditions has produced some rapid pasture growth that we believe has led to these poisonings,” he said.
“Kikuyu poisoning is not normally this common and we need to learn more about what causes it, to help landholders better prepare and manage their herd.
“We have collected samples from several affected properties and have a leading plant pathologist undertaking further research.”
It’s hoped more can be learned about how the pasture becomes toxic to livestock and ways this could be prevented.
There is no specific treatment for kikuyu poisoning but stock can recover if they are removed from the toxic pasture and provided medical care.
Digby Rayward said the risk generally seems to subside after three to four weeks, however producers should be cautious when readmitting cattle to suspect pastures and ensure access to alternate feed sources.
Monitoring cattle on kikuyu dominant pastures regularly is crucial, especially if they are being moved onto fresh paddocks.
Producers with concerns should contact their nearest District Veterinarian on 1300 795 299 or your private veterinarian.