All cattle must receive immediate veterinary attention when they are sick or injured. In most cases, unnecessary pain, injury and disease can be prevented through good husbandry, regular visits to a veterinarian and addressing any issues the veterinarian raises.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Health. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your cattle have the right veterinary care to be healthy.
Did you know that all cows are cattle but not all cattle are cows? In fact, cattle is the word used when referring to cows, heifers, bulls, steers, and calves.
Have a look below to learn how to determine if cattle are cows, heifers, bulls, or steers:
Cows – cows are adult female cattle that have had at least one calf (baby).
Heifers – heifers are young adult female cattle that have not had any calves.
Bulls – bulls are adult male cattle.
Steers – steers are male cattle that have been neutered (castrated).
Calves – calves are baby cattle. Calves can be male or female.
This is why SPCA’s Cattle Care page is called “Cattle Care” – it includes the care of all cattle, not just cows!
Just like you have a family doctor that you see when you are unwell, your cattle will need their own doctor too - a veterinarian is an animal doctor. It’s a good idea for your family to find out which veterinarian they plan on using before you get your cattle. Not all veterinary clinics specialise in cattle, so it is important you find a veterinarian that is experienced at treating farm animals.
Veterinarians that specialise in farm animals like cattle will usually come to your house instead of you having to transport your cattle into a veterinary clinic. Once you get a new calf, cow, and/or bull, your family should have your chosen vet do a health check-up straight away. Your veterinarian can administer any preventative treatments or medication that may be required.
Your veterinarian should also be able to give you lots of tips and advice for properly caring for cattle, including feed, and helping them to settle in. Make sure you ask the veterinarian any questions you have about caring for your cattle.
Cattle have four toes which are covered in hard hooves. They need a regular inspection to make sure they are healthy and in good shape. Cattle hooves grow over time, much like your toenails, and can grow overly long. If this occurs, it can cause problems such as difficulty walking and can be painful. If your cow or bull's hooves require trimming, it also requires special tools. It is best to let a veterinarian or hoof care specialist trim their hooves.
Foot rot is another condition in which the hooves of your cattle can get badly infected. This is caused by cattle standing on ground/muddy areas that are too wet. To prevent this, try to keep your cattle living area dry and make sure your land is not too wet for your cow to be on. If your cattle are on wet ground, do not leave them there for too long and be sure to rotate their grazing area.
Cattle will need regular preventative treatments - such as drenching - to make sure they do not become sick from either internal or external parasites, or disease. This is the easiest way to make sure your cattle stay healthy.
Vaccinations protect animals against the things that can cause illness or disease. There are a number of diseases that require different vaccines for your cattle, and your veterinarian will be able to give you recommendations. Cattle also need to be drenched and given a pour on for parasites approximately every three months - this will help protect them against worms, lice and ticks. Your veterinarian will be able to provide treatments for this and can either show an adult how to give these treatments to your cattle or preferably have someone experienced in handling cattle to treat them for you. This needs to be done gently and in proper handling yards to protect you and your cattle.
Bloat is a serious condition that affects the stomach of cattle. Bloat can happen when the lush, rich grass fermenting in your cow or bull's stomach produces gas and it then becomes trapped in their stomach.
This can make your cattle feel very ill and can even lead to death. If your cow or bull has bloat, you will notice their stomach will look very large, bulge and stick out on one side.
Your cow/bull will probably be acting very depressed as well and might grind their teeth in pain or kick their legs.
Bloat can be caused by a number of things:
Bloat can get worse very quickly. Therefore, if you suspect bloat at any point, call your veterinarian straight away.
If you suspect your cattle might be sick, their veterinarian should be called right away. Some signs your cow or bull may be feeling ill can include:
An important part of being a cattle guardian is ensuring your cattle are NAIT registered and have a NAIT tag in one of their ears.
NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing) ear tags help identify and protect your cattle from disease by allowing tracing of each animal by their tag.
Cattle must be NAIT tagged and registered within 6 months of birth, or before they're moved off the farm – whichever comes first.
This is a legal requirement for all cattle in New Zealand.
Image © OSPRI
You may also see cattle with bigger tags in their ears as well – this is a visual tag so that guardians can easily identify their cattle.