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Cows are a great addition to have on your lifestyle farm. They are gentle, relatively self-feeding and provide a great supply of food and milk, but the also require a considerable amount of care and can be prone to a number of diseases.

Grass Staggers

Grass Staggers occurs when the intake of magnesium is exceeded by its output. It is common in spring due to an increased requirement of magnesium for lactation and the decreased magnesium content of lush green pasture. Grass staggers is not just restricted to the first few days of lactation. As with all metabolic conditions, it is important to act fast. Contact North Canterbury Vets immediately if you notice the following symptoms

  • Hyper-excitability and restlessness
  • Unsteadiness and lack of coordination
  • Over-alert appearance.


Both cattle and sheep can be affected by lice. Lice infestations show as a loss of hair or wool pulling. You may see animals scratching themselves on fences or wool attached to fence lines. Lice is more typically seen in the winter months. Lice live on the animal's body and they can jump to other animals through close contact. To control lice it is important to treat all members of the flock at once to break the cycle.  Most lice treatments are topical pour-ons but are different for cattle and sheep. Come in and speak to the team about which treatment option is best for you and your animals.

Pink Eye

Pink eye can occur in cattle of all ages. There are a number of seasonal environmental factors that contribute-wind, dust, strong sunlight and stalky vegetation. North Canterbury Vets offers a vaccination, antibiotic treatment and cornea surgery where necessary. Piliguard Pinkeye Trivalent is a single shot vaccine. It works by helping to develop and maintain immunity by generating antibodies against M. Bovis in the animal’s blood and tears. This helps prevent the bacteria attaching to the eye.

Affected animals should be shifted to a safe pasture or given supplementary feed.

Vaccinate dairy beef calves on arrival. The best time to vaccinate is 3-6 weeks before the onset of the pink eye season. The vaccine cannot guarantee 100% protection so it is important to treat and quarantine all clinical cases promptly. Outbreaks can be treated with antibiotics and where the cornea has ulcerated, we can surgically construct a flap over the ulcer to protect and hasten healing.

Both the vaccine and antibiotics used in treatment are prescription animal remedies. As farm systems and animal health requirements vary, please contact one of our veterinarians if you would like to discuss a management programme for the prevention of pink eye in your cattle.

Ticks and Parasite Control

We generally don't see ticks in North Canterbury, however if you have purchased animals from Nelson or the North Island they may bring ticks in with them. If you think your animal has ticks please contact us.


North Canterbury Vets stock a wide range of combination products either as an oral, injectable or pour-on for Cooperia and Ostertagia parasites. Talk to us about drenching, timing and a treatment regime for your farm.

Milk Fever

Milk Fever is the most common metabolic condition that usually occurs around three days either side of calving. In the early lactation stages a high producing cow’s calcium requirements exceed her ability to mobilise calcium reserves (bones) and absorb enough calcium from the diet. Milk fever may be seen in cows of any age but it is more common in high producing dairy cows over five years of age.

Please contact North Canterbury Vets if you notice any of the following problems:

  • Staggering
  • Lying down with head and neck kinked back
  • Tremors
  • Hypothermia
  • Constipation

Act immediately. If left untreated cows will die due to circulatory collapse and respiratory failure.

Ryegrass Staggers

Ryegrass staggers occurs when animals grazing perennial ryegrass eat large amounts of a toxin produced by ryegrass endophyte, a fungus that grows inside the plant. It occurs in sheep, cattle, deer and horses and the signs are usually seen when animals are disturbed and forced to move.

  • Head nodding and jerky limb movements in sheep and cattle
  • Nervousness and loss of balance in horses
  • Head and neck tremors in Alpacas

After a while the animal recovers. Deaths tend to be accidental following injury such as drowning after a fall into water or being caught in fences.

Affected animals should be shifted to a safe pasture or given supplementary feed.

Calf Scours

Calf scours can be divided into two groups: nutritional and infectious. Nutritional scours is often caused by poor quality milk or sudden changes to milk formulas. Milk that is too hot or too cold can also lead to diarrhea or bloat. Nutritional scourers is identified by white or yellow sticky runny faeces.

Infectious scours are more common in young calves. Faeces can be watery and brown or yellow. Calves will become very dehydrated which can lead to sunken eyes. Severely affected animals are weak and lethargic.

Scouring animals can die from dehydration so it is important to act fast. Keep sick animals isolated, dry and warm. Administer quality electrolyte feeds such as Diarrest or Revive.

Colostrum is the biggest preventative measure. Calves requires 4 litres of fresh colostrum from a newly calved cow during the first twelve hours of life.


Reproduced with permission thanks to Franklin Vets, Papakura

Our Clinics & Hours

North Canterbury Veterinary Clinics operates four clinics throughout the Hurunui region.