The quarterly report released by the regional veterinary laboratories (RVLs) gives an overview of animal disease trends over October, November and December of 2020.

An overall increase in the number of carcases submitted for examination can be attributed to a rise in avian carcasses examined over the period.


The substantial increase in the number of cattle foetuses submitted for examination was partly accounted for in a department bovine abortion study, which encouraged veterinarians to send foetuses to the RVLs.

Salmonella was detected as the cause of abortion in a higher-than-expected proportion of aborted calves, a change to the gradual decrease in the agent over the past decade.

The report also noted that cattle carcases submitted to the laboratories showed up with lower incidences of parasitic gastroenteritis than expected.

The top three identified causes of mortality in cattle of all ages are:

  • Pneumonia.
  • Enteritis.
  • Blackleg.
  • The RVLs blood tested 64 neo-natal calves either dead or presenting with clinical symptoms, determining that 55% of the calves had received inadequate antibodies from colostrum.


    Respiratory ailments and pneumonia were the main cause of death identified in the sheep carcases submitted to the RVLs.

    Parasitic gastroenteritis and acute liver fluke were lower than typically expected for the time of year. A lower parasite burden resulting from drier early spring and summer weather conditions may have been an important factor in this observation.

    The top three identified causes of mortality in sheep carcasses of all ages submitted to RVLs in the period are:

  • Pneumonia.
  • Parasitic gastro-enteritis.
  • Ruminal acidosis
  • Miscellaneous deaths

    Among the less common – yet possibly preventable – causes of mortality determined by the autopsies over the period were:

  • A three-month old calf with significant damage to intestines caused by the ingestion of silage wrap.
  • A nine-month-old lamb diagnosed with a case of copper poisoning.
  • Multiple cases of pharyngeal (upper throat) trauma in sheep caused by improper dosing and blousing techniques.