Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Time to firm up approach to diseases

Peadar O'Scannaill

Spring has been kind and although the grass is slow, most flocks are outdoors at this stage. Diseases seen at housing can be quickly stopped by opening the gates and letting sheep out.

It's such a busy time that it's almost impossible to do, but now is a good time to note the problems that occurred this winter. Just make a short note and leave it until a quieter time to tackle some of those issues.

With spring in full swing, the flock must be refocused to avoid disease. The clostridial vaccine programme must be firmed up to protect lambs from unvaccinated mothers as well as lambs from a flock of well-protected dams. Better to decide now which way the farm is to go.

The safest route is to vaccinate the entire flock, including all mothers that are to stay as breeding ewes. Lambs that received no boosted colostrum from the 2010/2011 dams will need to begin their programme during the earliest weeks of life.

The others have the dam's protection and begin their own programme a month or two later.

Where pasteurella has been a problem previously, then you should use the vaccine that has the added 'P' for pasteurella to protect against that deadly form of pneumonia.

Use all vaccines carefully.


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One form of vaccine breakdown can occur when administering the product. When lifting the skin to insert the needle, ensure that it does not pass right through and out the other side of the skin. Leaked vaccine means an unprotected animal.

Ensure antiseptic techniques at all times when vaccinating -- if individual doses are being used to vaccinate a small group of sheep, then use one needle in the container and avoid putting the needle that injected the previous sheep back through the bottle top to draw the next dose. Disconnect the syringe and attach it to the one needle that remains in the bottle top.

This helps to maintain the integrity of the bottle seal and prevents contamination of its contents.

Parasitic disease will strike very quickly as grazing of the lambs begins. With earlier flocks, it remains a good practice to graze the lambs ahead of any older animals where possible. The young, vulnerable intestines and livers of this year's crop need as little worms and fluke as possible. Your vet will advise a good worming programme which must include the following:

  • An assessment of the parasite problem on the farm last year;
  • Several dung samples from appropriate times this year, from three weeks out up to late autumn. This is needed to focus the medicine and minimise resistance in fluke and worms;
  • Specific use of correct wormers from springtime to a summer dose regime and on to autumn dosing, in order to reduce over-wintering parasite burden.


Never be afraid to take dung samples as knowledge is a good thing, and a dung sample can provide valuable information.

To finish this week, a big push is required on this year's fluke drive. Fluke in lambs' livers has been increasing year on year for far too long. Get the dosing advice from your vet now at the very early stage of grazing because those flukecides are experiencing resistance and must be used carefully.

Again, identify heavy burdened lands and keep the young, fresh livers away from the worst affected fields.

Peadar O Scanaill, MRCVS, is a member of Veterinary Ireland animal h ealth committee. Email:

Indo Farming