The new soft floor at NRLX Casino Saleyards.
The new soft floor at NRLX Casino Saleyards. Susanna Freymark

Autopsies needed after mystery spike in cattle deaths

VETERINARIAN Liz Bolin said post mortem examinations were needed to determine if saw dust at the Casino saleyards contributed to a spike in cattle deaths in the past month.

Dr Bolin, a North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian, said up to 20 head of cattle, all weaners, died either at the NRLX Casino Saleyards or at St George or Coonamble after being transported from sales at the yards.

She said it was likely the cattle died of shipping fever, but the results of autopsies were needed to determine if the sawdust used at the saleyards was a contributing factor.

She said shipping fever was common in the class of cattle that died, but there seems to have been a spike in numbers, "that's why people are talking about it".

Shipping fever can occur in stressed weaners with poor immune systems, that haven't been exposed to respiratory virus before, Dr Bolin said.

She said if dust problems are also added to the mix, then you have a compounding issue where cattle can die from pneumonia.

Dr Bolin said saleyard management, Richmond Valley Council, were looking into the cause of the deaths, and other options were available if sawdust was found to be a contributing factor, including river sand.

She said soft flooring was a step in the right direction in terms of animal welfare - cattle were suffering from lameness previously, caused by wet weather, concrete and rock flooring.

Dr Bolin said until results were in, it was just speculation sawdust was an issue: "We need a good post mortem to get to the bottom of it".