Sheep blood test

Sheep producers who have experienced more than 2% of ewes aborting this lambing season are being urged to take advantage of a new subsidised blood testing service available from vets.

The FlockCheck 2012 test from veterinary pharmaceutical firm MSD Animal Health detects exposure to enzootic abortion (EAE) and toxoplasmosis. It requires vets to take blood samples from aborted ewes.

MSD Animal Health’s Drew McGurren said “The recent FlockCheck results are consistent with findings from previous years, in that around four out of every five tested flocks are infected with toxoplasmosis.”

Additionally, we also find consistently that slightly more than a third of flocks are harbouring both toxoplasmosis and EAE infections. Unfortunately, whilst EAE can cause abortion storms, many farmers may not realise they even have a problem, but there’s no doubt that these infections do erode flock profitability.”

The company says that at a time when many farmers are asking for veterinary diagnostic support to confirm or rule out potential Schmallenberg virus infection, it “makes sense” to investigate whether other diseases are present in the flock at the same time.

Data collected nationally shows that the most commonly diagnosed causes of abortion in sheep continue to be EAE and toxoplasmosis, despite the availability of cost-effective vaccines, it says.

“Based on the previous two years’ FlockCheck data (2011 and 2010), on average over 86% of submitted samples tested positive for toxoplasmosis and more than 62% were positive for enzootic abortion. Around 43% of samples showed exposure to both diseases,” said Mr McGurren.

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“If toxoplasmosis is present in your flock, vaccination has been shown to produce a 6.4% increase in the number of lambs. The situation can be more complex with EAE if many ewes are already carriers of the disease. However, most farms will see a significant benefit from vaccination during the following season.”