Weaner deer health

Following on from last month's article on the drenching of weaner deer it seemed appropriate to discuss two other diseases that we often see in weaner deer over the autumn and winter months.


How young deer are managed during and after weaning will determine whether or not they succumb to Yersiniosis in their first autumn/winter. Anything that stresses the animal, such as transport, bad weather, poor nutrition, trace element deficiencies or parasites, can cause clinical disease. Animals with no major stressors will usually not present with full-blown clinical disease and show only mild symptoms.

The symptoms of Yersiniosis in fawns are a foul-smelling, watery scour that progresses to a bloody diarrhoea and usually death. There is seldom the opportunity to treat a sick animal because of the speed of onset of the disease and, in the case of an outbreak, it is not uncommon for 20% of a mob to be affected. In an outbreak, it is usually too late to vaccinate and prophylactic antibiotic therapy given to the remainder of the mob may be the only approach.

Aim to reduce stress levels as much as possible in young deer and consider reducing stress levels on yourself by vaccinating your weaners with Yersiniavax® .The timing of vaccination may be critical in determining its effectiveness. Ideally it should be done in the autumn before the bad weather and young deer have been mobbed together.


The disease is caused by the bacterium Fusobacterium necrophorum which is found in the intestines of many animals. This bacterium survives well in manure-contaminated wet soil. The bacteria cannot penetrate intact skin but will enter the body via cuts, damaged skin or via the mouth. Changes in the rumen, caused for example by grain overload, can also precipitate the disease. One of the commonest entry points is through feet that have been damaged during yarding and trucking.

Animals with the disease can present in different ways but are often depressed, thin, and rough-coated poor-doers. They can have a swollen face or jaw, be lame in single or multiple limbs, and can sometimes have an infection in the throat leading to wheezing and possibly the development of pneumonia. Animals are sometimes found dead and, when autopsied, these animals can have abscessation in multiple organs.

There is no licensed vaccine for the disease and it is almost certainly better to avoid the problem in the first place. Suggestions include avoiding rough surfaces especially sharp rocks and concrete, board yards where possible, keep yards as clean as possible, use clean weaning paddocks and avoiding pressure points in laneways. Running small mobs, keeping weaners away from wire netting, and minimising time in yards can also all play a part in reducing the incidence of the disease.

Treatment of early cases with antibiotics can sometimes be successful but cases with multiple lameness issues will probably need to be culled so prevention is much better than trying to deal with an outbreak.

If you think you are, or may, experience challenges with either of these debilitating diseases call Totally Vets today.