Plentiful green feed in spring is beneficial for your feed reserves during summer and autumn. However, it also brings with it a few problems, namely the risk of bushfires and abundance of grass seeds.
Grass seeds are especially a problem for sheep growers. Not only can the fleeces and skin of sheep be ruined by penetrating grass seeds, but due to their height (or lack thereof), the eyes are also at risk. Skin penetration by grass seeds can kill lambs, especially unshorn ones, in severe cases through massive inflammation, infection and pain.
Goat and alpaca fleeces may be similarly affected, with young stock more susceptible to eye problems.
Corkscrew and spear grass are the main culprits, as well as barley grass, crowsfoot grass, silver grass (Vulpia spp.) and red grass. Depending on the stage of development, judicious use of herbicides can control seed drop. Otherwise, fencing off or slashing areas that are more heavily infested is advisable. Establishing perennial pastures is the best method of preventing future problems.
While cattle are more protected thanks to their size, calves are at risk of grass seeds in eyes and adults may have damage around their lips after grazing heavily infested pasture. Eye damage can also predispose cattle to pinkeye, so it is important to check eyes regularly and remove any grass seeds, in addition to using fly control products and vaccination against pinkeye.
Dogs are common victims of grass seeds when working or roaming in paddocks at this time of year, with the ears, eyes and feet being the most susceptible areas. Dogs with long coats should be clipped and any hair between the toes should be trimmed, as this is a common entry point for grass seeds.
Check your dog's feet daily, especially if you notice a change in their activity levels. Remove any grass seeds if you find them and see your vet if you see any swellings or red areas between the toes. If the grass seeds aren't removed promptly, abscesses can develop and the grass seeds can also migrate under the skin. Due to their engineering, grass seeds only travel one way, and that's up! While they usually only migrate short distances, grass seeds have been located up to 20cm away from the entry point.
On rare occasions, grass seeds have been known to penetrate muscle and migrate to places like the spinal cord, or even the lungs - which is pretty nasty business. Grass seeds can also become lodged under the eyelids and cause conjunctivitis and corneal ulceration, so any dog with an eye discharge or 'squinty' eye should be investigated and treated by your vet.
Similarly, if your dog is shaking its head, scratching at one or both ears, rubbing the ear along the ground or holding its head down to one side, a grass seed lodged in the ear canal is a distinct possibility. Again, prompt veterinary investigation and treatment is warranted.