Report reveals top causes of cattle deaths in winter 2018

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has revealed the top causes of cattle deaths in the winter months of 2018, in its latest Regional Veterinary Laboratory (RVL) Report.

The report shows that pneumonia was the primary cause of death in the 512 bovine carcasses submitted to RVLs around the country, causing almost 120 of those deaths.

The second most frequent cause of death, enteritis, was a long way back, causing approximately 30 deaths.

Parasitic gastro-enteritis was also responsible for about 30 cattle deaths.

Bacteremia/septicemia was the only other diagnosis to account for over 20 deaths; the remaining six of the top 10 causes were (in declining order of frequency): peritonitis; blackleg; poisoning; gastro-enteritis; abnormal ulcer / perf / peritonitis; and pneumonia/septicemia.

The report covers the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2018, i.e. the month of October, November and December.


The report also breaks down the data into age-specific categories, including calves aged less than one month; this data is presented in the report according to system or cause rather than a specific diagnosis.

Among these calves, alimentary tract disease accounted for the most deaths – over 35% of calf mortality in this age category.

In weanlings and calves aged one to three months, respiratory disease accounted for the majority of deaths – almost 40% in weanlings and over 50% in the younger animals.

The report points out that, in Q4, the number of carcasses submitted were down on the same periods for 2016 and 2017.

The number of foetuses submitted was also down which, the report indicates, is a result of dry ground conditions limiting the spread of abortion-causing agents on pasture.

The number of cattle deaths stemming from parasitic gastro-enteritis was higher in Q4 2018 compared with previous quarters; the report suggests that this was as a result of a return to normal rain levels, following the dry spell last summer.