Cattle – health

Information about disease prevention and signs of illness in cattle.

Administering treatments

Approved activities Category
water 2
topical — udder 3
topical — backline 3
topical —spray 3
topical —dip 3
topical — jetting 3
oral — drench 3
oral — capsules 3
injection — subcutaneous 3
injection — intramuscular 3
implant — vaginal 3
implant — subcutaneous 3
Image: Backline treatments can be used to control parasites.

Cattle need to be protected against internal and external parasites and pathogenic and metabolic diseases. The risks will vary depending on the stock type, geographic location, stocking rates, frequency of stock movement and seasonal weather conditions.

Advice needs to be sought from a reliable and scientific source, e.g. livestock officer, veterinarian. General advice is available through the following:

NSW Department of Primary Industries

Beef cattle vaccines

Worm control in beef cattle

Vaccinations for beef cattle

An annual parasite and disease control program should be developed and documented. All cattle should be vaccinated and treated for parasites prior to moving them to the school farm or introducing them to the school stock.

Whenever chemicals are used including drenches, vaccines and back-line treatments, care must be taken about the following:

  • Reading all labels
  • Maintaining appropriate storage
  • Adhering to withholding periods
  • Determining the weight of the animals to be treated
  • Determining the correct dose rate
  • Using protective clothing if required
  • Using the correct equipment for application
  • Disposal of chemical containers
  • Documenting the dose, chemical name, batch number, expiry date, withholding period, identity of animal(s) administered to and date of administration.

Signs of illness

The first sign of illness is generally a change in an animal’s natural demeanour. It is important that staff who routinely care for and manage animals have knowledge of their natural behaviours and physical appearances and functions. Behavioural changes often include listlessness and lethargy. Closer examinations may show:

Variations in:

  • Body temperature
  • Gastrointestinal function such a diarrhoea, weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Urogenital function, e.g. abortion, infertility or abnormal discharges
  • Respiratory function such as persistent coughing, gasping or panting; or

Evidence of:

  • Skin condition such as lesions or abnormal growths
  • Tucked-up appearance, stiff gait, abnormal posture, patchy coat or loss of hair
  • Excessive scratching or rubbing
  • Swollen joints or lameness
  • Bellowing.

A failure to thrive or grow is another sign of illness. Common ailments may include mastitis, bloat, internal parasites or milk fever.

If the cause of ill-health cannot be identified and corrected, assistance should be sought from a veterinarian who is familiar with cattle. Any signs of illness or injury, and treatments given, should be documented in the appropriate records.

Schools that keep cattle must have identified an accessible veterinarian who is familiar with cattle and the staff must be aware of the veterinarian’s contact details.

Staff and students who work with school animals are encouraged to document any signs of illness to assist with diagnosis of any disorder and continuity of care.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Curriculum and Reform
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