BEWARE: A diet insufficient in protein and energy can cause submandibular oedema or bottle jaw in cattle.
BEWARE: A diet insufficient in protein and energy can cause submandibular oedema or bottle jaw in cattle. Contributed

Be on the lookout for bottle jaw

CATTLE owners are reminded to monitor their herds for the problematic medical condition "bottle jaw".

North Coast Local Land Services district veterinarian Dr Liz Bolin is urging producers to assess their feed supplies to gauge whether the available feed is suitable for the species, age, reproductive status and the use of the animals they are keeping after a recent increase in submandibular oedema cases.

She said submandibular oedema, or "bottle jaw" is the build-up of fluid under the jaw of a cow and can happen for several reasons including chronic liver fluke infestation, internal parasites, Bovine Johne's Disease or "woody tongue" infection.

Dr Bolin said the most common reason producers are seeing this condition in cattle on the North Coast at the moment is due to diets deficient in both protein and energy.

"Diets that don't provide enough energy can trigger an animal to raid its body stores of fat and protein to compensate for the energy deficits of their food," Dr Bolin said.

"Cattle with this the condition will also often have weight loss and a low body condition score."

She said nutritional hypoproteinemia, a condition where there is an abnormally low level of protein in the blood, can happen during a drought when animals are unable to graze pasture and are entirely dependent on stored feed, such as being underfed to save cost or due to an underestimate of nutritional requirements of the animal.

She said animals struggling to get enough nutrition are also more prone to internal parasites which can further reduce the protein levels in the blood.

"It is vital to have a good understanding of both the animal's needs and the approximate energy and protein values of feed to be able to prepare an appropriate ration," Dr Bolin said.

"With the high variability in the quality and the price of supplemental feeds available at the moment, we are urging producers when feeding drought-affected animals, to obtain both advice on the nutritional needs of their livestock and to ask for a nutritional analysis of any stock food before feeding out."

North Coast Local Land Services produces a monthly supplementary feeding update for producers about feed quality, availability and price, to which producers can subscribe.

Producers may also find the new Drought and Supplementary Feeding Calculator produced by NSW DPI a useful tool for developing drought feed rations as well as rations for dry periods when supplementary feeding is required.

For more advice regarding bottle jaw, please contact your private veterinarian or the district veterinarian for your region.