Complications in Lambing

Complications in Lambing

We’re into the New Year and the days are getting longer (slowly), and for many that means lambing is upon you. With lambing a number of you will also experience the annoying side, abortion. There are 3 main diseases which cause abortion in sheep, plus a number of less common ones. The three main ones are Enzootic abortion (Chlamydia), Toxoplasmosis and Campylobacter.

Enzootic Abortion
Enzootic abortion is very contagious, and the majority of infection is picked up at lambing time. It spreads from ewe to ewe, or ewe to lamb. The infective organism is shed in aborted/dead lambs and afterbirth, and continues to be shed from the ewe for approximately 3 weeks. It can also survive in the lambing environment for up to 6 weeks. Most ewes will abort the following year after exposure to the disease, but can abort the same year if you have a wide lambing period. It’s worth noting that if female lambs are exposed to it they will abort in their first year lambing.

There are very effective vaccines available for Enzootic abortion. During an outbreak certain antibiotics may help.

Toxoplasma is spread in cat faeces, and one cat can shed millions of the toxoplasma eggs. These eggs on pasture, in the grain store, hay, etc, are then eaten by the ewe leading to abortion. If you have toxoplasma do not get rid of the farm cat! He will keep other cats away and help control rodents which can spread other diseases. There is no direct spread from one ewe to another. Again there is a very effective vaccine available.

Campylobacter is spread in faeces of birds and rodents. It can also be shed by sheep, which may not be showing any signs off ill health or scours. Unfortunately there is no vaccine available.
So what to do in the face of abortion? HIT ITT

1. HYGIENE. Remove and destroy all aborted lambs and afterbirth ASAP. Destroy contaminated bedding and disinfect the pen.
2. ISOLATE. Immediately isolate the ewe, and keep isolated for 3 weeks and until all vaginal discharge ceases.
3. TERMINATE. Do not foster female lambs on to aborted ewes, as the lambs may then abort at their first pregnancy.
4. IDENTIFY. Eartag and record which ewes have aborted. This avoids mistakes with isolation and fostering, and help possible future testing.
5. THERAPY. Contact us to discuss what testing and treatment may be appropriate.
6. TEST. An exception to above. If you have more than 2% of the ewes that have lambed so far aborting, or if you are having a number aborting in a short period of time, it is likely there is an infectious cause involved. Put the dead lambs AND afterbirths in a sealed plastic bag and contact us to discuss possible testing.

Warning for Pregnant Women
A number of causes of abortion in sheep can also cause pregnant women to miscarry. Pregnant women should stay away from sheep around the lambing period.

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