Report highlights causes of death among cattle and sheep

Pneumonia was one of the leading killers among cattle and sheep during the summer of 2018, according to a surveillance report of regional veterinary laboratories (RVLs).

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Laboratories Quarterly Surveillance Report for quarter three (Q3) of 2018 covers the period July to September.

According to the report, pneumonia was the most common diagnosed cause of death among cattle, and the second most common diagnosed cause of death among sheep, according to carcasses that were examined by RVLs.

According to the report, the number of these carcasses submitted to RVLs was down on both of the last two years which, the report suggests, is a result of a slight fall in the number of animals dying – it points out that extremely dry weather, such as what we experienced during the summer, is not good for the survival of pathogens.

The findings are generally in line with previous years, apart from a notable increase in ruminal acidosis among sheep.

The report links this to sheep being rapidly transitioned from a forage diet to a concentrate diet when fodder is scarce, and warns farmers to be aware of the dangers this can have.


492 cattle carcasses were submitted to RVLs throughout the three-month period, with 449 examined, and with pneumonia being responsible for over one-fifth of deaths.

Among calves, respiratory disease was the biggest killer among weanlings (248 carcasses examined) and animals aged between one month and three months (50 carcasses examined) while, among calves aged less than one month, alimentary tract disease was responsible for the most deaths (41 carcasses examined).

The 10 most common causes of death among cattle for Q3 2018:

  • Pneumonia;
  • Enteritis;
  • Blackleg;
  • Cerbro Cortical Necrosis;
  • Poisoning;
  • Peritonitis;
  • Parasitic gastro-enteritis;
  • TB;
  • Botulism;
  • Parasitic bronchitis.


Among sheep, parasitic gastro-enteritis was the leading cause of death among the 179 carcasses examined, with pneumonia second; ruminal acidosis was the third most common cause, appearing more frequently than in previous years.

The 10 most common causes of death among sheep for Q3 2018:

  • Parasitic gastro-enteritis;
  • Pneumonia;
  • Ruminal acidosis;
  • Bacteraemia/septicaemia;
  • Encephalitis;
  • Parasitic bronchitis;
  • Abscessation-Misc;
  • Tick bone fever;
  • Enteritis and pneumonia;
  • Pulpy kidney disease.