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Beware the hairy panic this summer

By Eve Hall
District Veterinarian 

December 2018

Sheep producers are reminded to be aware of the risk of toxic summer weeds this summer. Typical appearance of hairy panic at early growth stage following rain. Photo courtesy summer rains are likely to trigger rapid green growth of plants such as hairy panic (Panicum effusum), a common weed among crop stubbles.

When consumed in high quantities, hairy panic can cause liver damage and photosensitivity in sheep. Younger stock, such as lambs, are particularly susceptible.

Signs to look out for include swelling of the face, ears and legs. Affected stock may be very sensitive to sunlight, so can appear to actively seek out shade. ‘Sunburn’ scabs may develop on the head and ears, and significant losses can occur from liver damage.

Producers should avoid grazing lambs on paddocks containing a significant amount of hairy panic. Spraying is an option, although take care not to graze the weed in the brief period after herbicide application as the associated rise in plant sugars can cause a further increase in palatability and intake. Once the plant has browned off, sheep may prefer to graze other available pasture. However with any ongoing summer rain, further germination of hairy panic is likely to occur.

Lamb with photosensitivity - swollen face, drooping ears and scabs forming. Photo courtesy NSW DPI.Other toxic summer weeds of concern include common heliotrope, which may cause liver damage, and cathead, which can cause a range of symptoms including staggers, sudden death, liver damage and photosensitivity.

Landholders who have concerns about toxic summer weeds or stock showing any of the above symptoms are encouraged to contact their nearest Murray Local Land Services veterinarian in Albury, Holbrook or Deniliquin.

Albury: Mark Corrigan – (02) 6051 2208
Holbrook: Eve Hall – 0439 078 989
Deniliquin: Linda Searle – (03) 5881 9919, or Scott Ison – (03) 5881 9917.