Sunday, November 19, 2017

Blood tests reveal need for pre-tup vaccination

September 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Livestock

tupping

An insidious infectious disease was a significant cause of barrenness or abortion in ewes last year, suggests an analysis of the latest diagnostic results released by MSD Animal Health.

Blood samples from sheep farms were tested during 2016 when the subsidised Expertis FlockCheck diagnostic service was made available to vets between March and July last year. Some 79% of flocks showed evidence of exposure to a toxoplasmosis-causing parasite.

The data also show that 76% of flocks had been exposed to Chlamydophila abortus bacteria, the organism causing enzootic abortion. In total, some 60% of flocks had been exposed to both organisms.

“A preliminary analysis of 2017 data to date shows a similar overall disease picture, albeit with a slightly higher figure (81%) for exposure to Toxoplasma gondii,” says MSD Animal Health livestock veterinary adviser Stephanie Small.

Damaging disease

This data highlights the continuing widespread prevalence of these financially damaging diseases in the national flock, says Ms Small. She is urging all sheep producers to discuss their individual farm situation with their vet, well in advance of the upcoming autumn tupping season.

“Toxoplasmosis, in particular, remains a key cause of barrenness and abortion in UK sheep flocks. It also causes reabsorptions, mummified foetuses, stillbirths and weakly lambs, and its effects on flock profits are often vastly underestimated.

“Toxoplasmosis is so widespread that the industry focus should be on preventing infection in breeding ewes and the best way to do that is to vaccinate replacements well before they go to the ram. The clear industry advice is to ensure every ewe is vaccinated before it breeds.”

Sheep pick up the infection from the environment and so normal biosecurity measures are not enough to control the disease. Infected cats shed toxoplasma eggs in their faeces and sheep become infected when they ingest these eggs from contaminated pasture, feed and water.

Early lamb losses

Another underlying disease problem that often manifests itself as significant early lamb losses is enzootic abortion, caused by Chlamydophila abortus bacteria. The disease can cause devastating abortion storms affecting approximately 25% of ewes.

Once a flock has the disease it is likely it will never disappear due to its persistence in carrier sheep. The disease often arrives on farm through bought-in replacements and is passed on from ewe to ewe at lambing. An infected unvaccinated ewe will more than likely abort in the next pregnancy.

Ms Small urges any sheep producers who recorded a flock barren rate greater than two percent last season to talk to their vet for advice well before tupping this year, even if diagnostic blood samples have not been taken. Ask for help too if any ewes aborted lambs during lambing, she says.

“If either toxoplasmosis or EAE has been diagnosed in a flock, vaccination is the most effective way to help protect against these diseases for future years. The Toxovax toxoplasmosis vaccine is known to protect the ewe for at least two lambing seasons.”

“The Enzovax vaccine helps protect the ewe for at least three years against EAE and all breeding females should be vaccinated any time between four months and three weeks before tupping,” advises Ms Small.

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