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Posted By: Kate - Farm Vet

Lambing season

Lambing is the busiest time of year for sheep farmers. As farm vets we try to help as much as we can with any problems sheep farmers encounter and a common problem we see at this time of year is ewes losing their lambs due to infections in pregnancy.

A farmer called us last week worried because several of his ewes had lost their lambs. We decided to take the lambs to Bristol University for a post mortem examination to find out what had caused the abortion. There are several common infectious causes of abortion in sheep, some of which can be treated or prevented.

The post mortem results came back as positive for Toxoplasmosis. We then blood sampled several other sheep in the flock and found many other ewes had been infected with Toxoplasma.  Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a small parasite that is shed by young cats. Sheep get infected by ingesting food or water contaminated by cat faeces containing the parasite. It only takes a very small amount of infected faeces to infect a ewe. Once infected a pregnant ewe will either abort her lambs or give birth to ill or still born lambs.

Unfortunately there is no effective treatment for Toxoplasma; however there is a vaccine that works very well to prevent disease in the future. The farmer in question has decided to vaccinate his flock to prevent any losses next year. Toxoplasma can also infect pregnant women so it is very important that pregnant women do not come into contact with sheep around lambing time.

 At this time of year pregnant ewes and ewes with lambs are very vulnerable.  If you are out and about, please keep your dogs on a lead near sheep and do not get too close.

Lambing time although busy, is also one of the best and most rewarding times in the sheep farmer’s calendar.  Seeing the lambs born, standing for the first time and watching them learn to play is one of the best parts of the job!

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