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Landholders urged to be on the lookout for humpy back in the Western region

Local Land Services Western Region is advising sheep producers to be on the lookout and report signs of humpy back following a number of suspected cases in recent weeks.

District Veterinarians Dr Charlotte Cavanagh, based in Bourke, and Dr Sophie Hemley, based in Broken Hill, have both examined sheep that are suspected of having humpy back and they are calling on landholders to keep them informed of other possible cases.

Humpy back describes a syndrome generally seen in extremely hot weather, typically in merino rams but there have been cases involving wethers and ewes.

Dr Cavanagh said more will be known in coming weeks when the results of several autopsies are available, however in the meantime she called on landholders to be vigilant when handling stock.

“We’ve had cases of landholders describing around 10 per cent of their ram flock forming a tail in the mob and “going down” after walking with a hunched back,” Dr Cavanagh said.

“Affected animals can recover if left to rest and with access to water and shelter, but death will likely occur if the sheep are driven or have no access to water in extreme heat.

“Unfortunately there is no other treatment or cure for humpy back.”

Dr Hemley said producers should consider rescheduling mustering sheep or other management activities to the cooler times of the day like first thing in the morning or late afternoons.

Humpy back has been associated with the consumption of Solanum esuriale, commonly known as quena, potato bush or wild tomato, and Malvastrum americanum, commonly known as spiked mallow, which is generally found six to 10 weeks after good rainfall.

Toxins in these plants are thought to cause degenerative changes to the brain and spinal cord.

There has also been evidence to suggest that the condition affects the muscular system rather than the neurological system, however it may affect both.

Landholders are encouraged to report incidences of humpy back or other staggers-type syndromes in their sheep as more work and research is needed to determine the actual cause and effect of this syndrome.

Landholders can contact Dr Cavanagh on 0429 773 021 and Dr Hemley on 0417 248 135.

Media contact: Charlie Whiteley 0428 679 974.