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February Farm Newsletter

From those of you that have already scanned your sheep, the results we've heard seem to be very favourable, as you would expect after such a good summer and an easy winter so far. See the article below for what to do if you find that your results are not up to scratch. Please remember to keep your scan results plus records of the number of lambs born, cut, weaned and sold to help us with updating your health plan each year.

Time is ticking on so it is time to get organised for lambing and calving. To help us make sure that we have everything you need and to save you waiting around at the surgery, please complete the enclosed lambing / calving form and return it to us a few days before you want to collect your order.

For those of you with excess pet lambs, check out

Date for Your Diary


We ran 3 very popular and successful lambing courses in 2013 but didn’t have the interest or funding to do the same last year.  We have the names of about 5 people who would be interested in attending a workshop this February but we need a few more to make it worthwhile.  The plans are not finalised but please contact Pam (01668 281323) or Jenny (01669 620638) if you would be interested in attending.

• Date: Wednesday 18th February
• Time: 10-3pm
• Venue: Jubilee Hall, Rothbury and Wagtail Farm
• Cost: £20. per person inc. lunch
• Topics: Care of pregnant ewes
   Care of newborn lambs
   Setting up your shed
   Practical lambing using simulators
   Treating and stomach tubing lambs

Please note that this equally suitable for goat keepers as both species will be covered.

Cattle Abortion

Abortion in cattle is an ongoing and often very frustrating issue to deal with on farm. It can be very obvious with the delivery of a near term calf or can be much more subtle with nothing visible externally other than a cow returning to service that had previously been diagnosed pregnant.

The infectious causes include Brucellosis, Leptospirosis, BVD, IBR and more recently Schmallenberg virus. Many vaccinations are available, however, we have to know what abortion agent or agents we are dealing with before we can give any advice about what specific control measures to take. The non-infectious causes are numerous and can be dietary due to poor nutrition, twins, or as result of trauma to name a few.

As part of Brucellosis surveillance, it is still a requirement for all abortions in cattle to be reported to the local animal health office who will decide if a statutory abortion investigation is needed. This is funded and focuses purely on Brucellosis so any additional investigation has to be paid for.

An abortion rate of <2% is acceptable and no great cause for alarm but if this increases to > 5% then further investigation is advisable. Aborting cows should be isolated from the rest of the herd to reduce spread within the herd and all aborted materials should be disposed of appropriately. On an individual level the best means of reaching a diagnosis is to submit the aborted foetus and placenta to the nearest Veterinary Investigation centre. The key is to submit the sample as soon as possible and not to lose heart if the first sample submitted is unrewarding but to continue submitting any further cases.

Record Keeping
It is essential to keep accurate records of any suspect abortions including the age and lactation number of the dam, the stage of pregnancy at which the abortion occurred and whether multiple foetuses were involved. This information is crucial even if the incidence of abortion is low to highlight trends of susceptible animals or areas of concern. On a herd level, blood samples or bulk milk tank samples can be very useful to screen for BVD, IBR, Lepto, Neospora or Schmallenberg.

Biosecurity is the most important control measure available and should be aimed at minimising the risk of introducing disease onto a farm. Where possible a completely closed herd should be maintained although as this is often not practical, effective quarantine of purchased cattle for at least 14 but preferably 28 days is essential. The quarantine process must be supported by stock-proof boundaries to prevent cattle straying and returning carrying disease and ensuring all farm visitors and their equipment are clean before entering the farm. Farm gate disinfection is extremely rare!

Sheep Scanning Results

Scanning ewes is important in order to group them for feeding purposes but also to establish the percentage of barren ewes. Ewes may be barren at scanning due to a lack of conception or due to loss of embryos early on in pregnancy.

Causes of lack of conception include poor tup fertility, incorrect nutrition (thin ewes or low protein levels), liver fluke, stress due to handling, old ewes and ewes not cycling due to breed, for example tupping Blackface ewes before their breeding season.

Ewes need to be on a level plane of nutrition leading up to, during and after tupping time so they maintain a body condition score around 2.5 to optimize fertility. Feeding ewes on red clover pasture can stop ewes cycling due to high oestrogen levels so these pastures are best avoided around tupping time. Lame ewes or tups will reduce tupping activity therefore causing lower scanning percentages.

Poor scanning results due to loss of embryos can be caused by infectious causes or non-infectious causes. Infectious causes include:
1. Toxoplasma, which can also cause abortions later in pregnancy and can be vaccinated against to reduce problems in future years.
2. Border Disease Virus, which needs more complex control strategies.
Non-infectious causes include trace element deficiencies, especially selenium and iodine.

Ticks, causing tick borne fever, can cause abortion later on in pregnancy, but treating ewes with Dysect at scanning time will help prevent problems later on.

If there are more than 2% barren at scanning it is worth speaking to your vet (before culling barren ewes) and carrying out further investigation. Blood sampling can help give information about possible infectious causes or trace element deficiencies.

Metabolic Profile Testing Sheep:

Nutrition of ewes in the second half of pregnancy is very important. If ewes are overweight they are more likely to have difficulty lambing. If they are underweight this will cause poor placental development, resulting in lower birth weights and lamb survival rates.

Three to four weeks before lambing it is worth checking the protein and energy levels of ewes to see if they are getting the necessary nutrition from feed being given.
• Protein is important for lamb growth but also particularly for the production of good quality colostrum and milk. If protein levels are not adequate ewes won't produce enough milk which will cause poor lamb survival, poor growth rates and cause cases of mastitis due to the lambs' sucking damaging the udder and introducing bacteria.
• If energy levels are inadequate this will also cause poor lamb survival rates, and ewes are more likely to get twin lamb disease which often carries a poor prognosis.

Blood sampling 10-20 sheep, preferably a combination of 6 triplets, gimmers and twins prior to lambing will give the necessary information. It is not advisable to blood sample singles as these ewes are under less stress compared to gimmers or those with multiple pregnancies.

Drugs Now In Stock

• Dysect / Ectofly—To prevent Tick-Borne Fever.
• Flukiver / Trodax—The best fluke treatments for this time of year.
• Heptavac P—For boosters 4-6wks pre-lambing.


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