Sheep: Reducing losses to abortion vital for a profitable flock
Whether a sheep farmer is in the red at the end of the year, all comes down to the number of healthy lambs per ewe.
It is essential to reduce or prevent any losses to abortion to give a farmer a fighting chance at maintaining a healthy gross margin per ewe.
There will always be some level of 'natural' abortion but once the rate goes above 5pc we need to start looking into the possibility of an infectious cause at play.
In practice I have seen the serious economic consequences of infectious abortion in ewes, not to mention the stress and upset for farmers pulling dead lambs from ewes.
There are numerous different infectious causes but the two most common and indeed preventable are toxoplasma and chlamydia or EAE the enzootic abortion of ewes.
Although toxo has long been the most common cause, chlamydia is steadily creeping up in incidence.
Toxo can cause significant early loss of embryos as well as the birth of dead and dying lambs, and chlamydia delivers similar results with abortion and the birth of weak lambs that often die in the first three to 24 hours.
I have seen abortion storms from chlamydia with 25pc and upwards of ewes aborting, and needless to say this decimation of the lamb harvest can be devastating.