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Department of Primary Industries:
Caring For Pregnant Cows And Ewes

Landholders with spring calving or spring lambing stock will know the pregnancy status of the group now.

By Department of Primary Industries - 13th March 2003 - Back to News

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Landholders with spring calving or spring lambing stock will know the pregnancy status of the group now. It is important that if drought conditions persist, those pregnant animals receive preferential feeding treatment to avoid pregnancy toxaemia at lambing/calving. You will need to keep adequate quality feed up to the pregnant animals from now onwards AND budget sufficient hay etc. to fully feed the heavily pregnant animals just prior to calving or lambing if the spring is late. Make sure that you have sufficient reserves on hand to feed the pregnant animals within your herd or flock now.


Pregnancy toxaemia is a disease that can develop in late pregnancy in sheep and cattle. It is related to insufficient energy intake in animals with a heavy metabolic demand due to pregnancy. The foetus relies on glucose for energy and it takes its supply from the mother. In late pregnancy the foetus is large and thus the demand on the mothers’ glucose supply is large. If the mother cannot eat enough quality feed to make sufficient glucose for the foetus and for herself, she will run short of glucose.


If the mother has insufficient glucose for her own needs then certain vital tissues (eg brain) suffer. She will try and use as much of her body fat as possible but often this is insufficient and she can collapse from the demand. Affected animals experience rapid weight loss; weakness and can go down and die. Often they are poorly responsive to treatment and must be destroyed. The animals most commonly affected are animals that are light in condition (ie have insufficient body fat reserves), are on an inadequate diet whilst heavily pregnant or are carrying twins.


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