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Saturday 10 December 2016

Act quickly to curb spread of mastitis

Careful hygiene together with prompt action can prevent this and other infectious diseases from curbing flock performance

Michael Gottstein

Published 01/03/2011 | 05:00

Over-sucking, which happens when ewes have insufficient milk due to poor nutrition, can also have an impact on the level of mastitis in a flock
Over-sucking, which happens when ewes have insufficient milk due to poor nutrition, can also have an impact on the level of mastitis in a flock
There is some anecdotal evidence that certain breeds and some strains within breeds are more prone to mastitis

Lambing time is a crucial period on the sheep farm and is an area where health issues can dictate the relative success or failure of the flock performance.

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One of the most common health problems at lambing is mastitis in the ewe.

Mastitis occurs when an infection gets into the udder and develops within. Because the udder is full of milk it is an ideal place for bacteria to grow and invade the surrounding tissues.

Prompt treatment with cow tubes can, on rare occasions, save the affected udder but in most cases the affected quarter is lost and, in extreme cases with E coli or gangrene mastitis, the ewe herself may succumb to the infection.

Hygiene around and after lambing is critical in reducing the incidence and spread of mastitis. Indoors, plenty of straw and frequent applications of cubicle lime will help to reduce the level of infection in the environment.

Once a case is identified, prompt treatment with antibiotics (under veterinary advice) should be instigated. With E coli or gangrene infection, the ewe may need to be put on a drip to help flush out the toxins if she is not to die from blood poisoning.

Issues such as orf can also have a big impact on the levels of mastitis experienced in the flock.

Lambs infected with orf can infect the ewes around the udder. This will make the udder sore and the affected ewe will not allow the lamb to suck, thereby further increasing the risk of infection.

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Over-sucking, which happens when ewes have insufficient milk due to poor nutrition, can also have an impact on the level of mastitis in a flock. Hungry lambs will be continuously trying to suckle the ewes, resulting again in sore teats and problems.

Where a problem with mastitis exists in the flock, talk to your vet about finding out the potential causes and putting in place a plan to eliminate them.

There is some anecdotal evidence that certain breeds and some strains within breeds are more prone to mastitis. Certainly you should avoid keeping ewe lambs from ewes that have mastitis or lost a quarter. Also, if you are finding that a particular ram is leaving daughters that are more prone to mastitis you should consider giving him his walking papers.

Over time, the new indices being developed by Sheep Ireland will identify breeds and strains that score better on mastitis resistance.

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