Research and Development

Ewe abortion and neonatal deaths – new targeted surveillance scheme in WA

Jon Condon, July 28, 2016

ewes and lambs 5

WESTERN Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Food is seeking producers’ assistance to conduct surveillance for sheep abortions and neonatal lamb deaths.

Abortions, neonatal lamb deaths and still born lambs cost the Australian sheep industry an estimated $540 million a year, according to a recent MLA report.

There are many common endemic infectious and non-infectious causes of ewe abortions and lamb deaths.

This surveillance will improve understanding of the cause and impact on sheep production of infectious abortion in ewes in WA and assist with implementation of preventative and management practices.

This surveillance will also support WA sheep industry’s export market access by providing evidence that WA is free from the reportable diseases that cause abortion.

Demonstrating freedom from these reportable diseases ensure premium export opportunities for WA sheep farmers.

DAFWA is seeking samples from ewe flocks with more than three recorded lamb abortions or neonatal (around the time of lambing) lamb deaths. Only cases where the lamb has not walked (gel still present on the hooves) are suitable for this surveillance.

To ensure samples are representative of flock-wide problems, DAFWA ask that the samples are collected and frozen when they are found, but are not submitted until three or more samples have been taken from different cases.

Common infectious diseases that will be tested for include:

  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Q Fever
  • Campylobacteriosis (previously known as vibriosis)
  • Salmonellosis
  • Listeriosis
  • Brucellosis
  • Border Disease

In addition to these common diseases, reportable diseases that can cause abortions and neonatal lamb losses will be tested for, including:

  • Chlamydophilia abortus (enzootic abortion)
  • Brucella melitensis and
  • Salmonella abortus.

If an infectious cause of abortion is identified, management strategies to reduce the future impact of disease may be available. For this reason, it is suggest a DAFWA or private veterinarian or livestock consultant be nominated to also receive your test results.

The cost of the laboratory tests and sampling kits required will be covered by DAFWA.

Producers should direct enquiries and sample kit requests to their local DAFWA or private veterinarian or livestock consultant.

For more information see:

Contact Dr Anna Erickson, Veterinary Officer, Narrogin on (08) 9881 0211.

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