Farming really sucks sometimes… The unpredictable uk weather, the long unforgiving hours, even the livestock.
A saying I have become very familiar with is “where there is livestock, there is dead stock”.
This year is tough already. We are due to start Lambing in approximately 2 weeks, however in the past week we have already had three abortions all from ewes expecting doubles which is a large loss!!
The first abortion was a shock, although some loss is expected it is not so normal to get abortions at this late stage of pregnancy. Research suggested a high possibility of a bacterial issue. Luke and I are keen to protect our flock in every way we can, but both of us would still consider ourselves novices… Definitely me!! I bring out my books and google to start swatting trying to diagnose any issue.
As our expectant ewes have now been brought in to our barn, it was of utmost importance the aborting ewe was removed and isolated from the others, the aborted lamb bagged along with any after birth. The straw bedding was also removed and burned incase the reason was bacterial.
There are a few infectious diseases in sheep. Infectious causes of abortion are most common after day 100 of pregnancy. While sporadic losses are expected, a loss of over 2% is suggestive of an infectious cause. At 2 ewes aborting within 2 days we were were heading towards the 2% before lambing begun…. Investigation was imperative.
Luckily locally there is a diagnostic laboratory, we took a dead lamb and the fresh afterbirth to be tested. Very swiftly we were called to only hear the result we dreaded…. Our ewe was positive for something called enzootic abortion of ewes (EAE). Who knows when we got it as we have bought in ewes this year but it could have been latent in some of the ones from the year before??!
We have acted quickly and all of our ewes have had antibiotics prescribed by our vet. We can only hope this will help but we had another abortion occur today. We know fellow farmers who have suffered huge losses up to 80% which such infections. These are known as ‘abortion storms’.
It is thought that these infections are the cause of 70% of abortions in the UK. So we are not alone! Even though short term this is likely to be devastating, long term with a closed flock we hope to build an immunity to this disease and others like it. Ultimately we can only hope to end up with a very strong healthy flock.