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Subsidised testing for two of the major causes of abortion in ewes is once again being provided by MSD.

Flockcheck 2020 runs from 1st February to 30th June 2020 and involves blood sampling 6-8 barren or aborted ewes to check for the presence of Toxoplasma or Chlamydia anti bodies. Ewes must not have been previously vaccinated for this test.

Toxoplasmosis Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite which is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated feed. The parasite is carried by cats who shed it in their faeces. Infection during early pregnancy can lead to early embryonic death – this manifests as a high barren rate – especially in shearlings. Infection in mid pregnancy leads to abortion or the birth of weak lambs – often with a dead/mummified twin. Vaccinating first ti me ewes prior to tupping is an effective way of preventing the disease. Regular worming of farm cats and preventing their access to feedstuff s can also help in the control of Toxoplasma.

Enzootic abortion

Enzootic abortion is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia abortus. It causes abortion in the last three weeks of pregnancy and/or the birth of fresh dead or weak lambs. The bacteria will cause abortions if the ewe is infected more than 6 weeks prior to lambing. After this point the bacteria can lie latent in the ewe and affect the pregnancy the year aft er initial infection. The biggest risk factor for introduction of the disease to a flock is buying in replacement ewes that are carrying the bacteria. Buying from accredited free flocks and vaccination of stock are the best ways to reduce the risk of disease.


Biosecurity is important for any case of abortion. Aborted ewes should be isolated from the rest of the lambing flock for at least two weeks. Most causes of abortion are transmitted through contact with foetal materials and fluids – so any lambs/placenta/ membranes should be removed and disposed of appropriately and staff / equipment clean and disinfected prior to handling other ewes.

Many causes of abortion are also zoonotic – they can be transmitted to humans. So remember to always wash your hands and disinfect protective clothing after dealing with an aborting ewe. If you experience abortions or a high barren rate this season – please speak to a vet in the first instance. If appropriate we can arrange to blood sample a number of animals under the Flockcheck scheme. If you are experiencing an abortion outbreak then sampling of aborted lambs and placenta may be more appropriate to reach a diagnosis. Speak to your vet for more information.


You may already be aware of reduced availability of some mastitis tubes. There are alternative tube options available, please speak to your vet for more advice on the most appropriate for your farm


• Would you like to reduce your herd’s risk of TB breakdown?

• Would you like to be recognised for the work you put into achieving this?

• Would you like to stay on annual TB testing when the rest of Devon moves to 6 monthly testing?

• Would you like to have a TB risk assessment and biosecurity plan done for free?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then an advice visit from one of Torch’s TB Advisors can help you. We have given tailored advice to over 70 farmers in the last 18 months to help them strengthen their business against TB breakdowns. If you haven’t yet had a visit, please contact your usual branch and ask to speak to one of our TB Advisors.

WHAT’S ON THIS MONTH…. It’s a busy time for upcoming events at Torch – we hope to see you in the coming weeks at a meeting or two.

A full breakdown of events happening in the coming weeks is available on our calendar – click here.

Please call your usual practice or email jocarr@torchvets.com if you would like to attend any of these events.