Two ewes from the same flock died as a result of complications caused by the incorrect placement or extraction of their hormonal sponges, vets at Cork’s Regional Veterinary Lab (RVL) found.

The two ewes were presented to the RVL for postmortem in good body condition.

However, both sheep had extensive inflammation of the peritoneum, the thin tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs.

Both sheep also had obvious renal distension, a swelling of part of the kidney.


The vets reported that the kidneys were congested and both sheep had kidney infections and bladder infections.

The vets found an intravaginal sponge present in both sheep at the level of the urethral opening, the point where urine exits the urethra. The area around the sponges was inflamed, with a high level of pus.

The sheep could not urinate and fully empty their bladders

The cause of death was attributed to complications caused by urethral obstruction due to a failure to properly insert or extract the intravaginal hormone delivery sponges that are commonly used for oestrous synchronisation.

They concluded that it was likely that the sheep could not urinate and fully empty their bladders.

This fact, combined with the area around the sponges becoming septic, eventually led to the kidney and bladder infections, high levels of nitrogen in their blood, peritonitis and systemic complications.

The vets in Cork RVL advised that other ewes in the flock should be inspected to ensure that the sponges were properly placed and removed correctly.

The two ewes were among the 776 adult animal carcases examined in the country’s six RVLs in at Athlone, Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick, Sligo and Dublin in July and August 2016. The labs also examined 96 foetuses and carried out 5,385 diagnostic samples in the same period.

Read more

Outwintering 300 Cheviot ewes on the Wicklow hills

Lamb prices ease but more bite for stores

Sheep Welfare Scheme post-breeding mineral supplementation