Operating a closed flock policy is the best form of defence when it comes to reducing the risk of disease entering a flock.

The trading of pet or orphan lambs, foster ewes and in-lambs ewes is a considerable business that is increasing in intensity and will continue to do so until mid-season lambing peaks in March.

Farmers purchasing animals need to be aware of the risks that they bring upon their flocks and be mindful as to the biosecurity risk that purchasing such animals poses at this stage of the year.

Unknown health background

Foster ewes with an unknown health background or who have lost lambs in suspicious circumstances should raise alarm bells. These are a particularly high risk, given abortion-causing agents could be responsible for the loss of lambs.

In this regard, enzootic abortion is one of the major threats to be on guard for and as there are no visual warning signs for the farmer purchasing ewes, a good quarantine programme is essential.

In-lamb ewes should be lambed, where possible, in a separate area, unless there is a robust background history and you are confident that no risks are present.

Foster ewes which are purchased should on no account be mixed with in-lamb ewes. These ewes should be isolated and undergo a quarantine period, with a similar approach prudent with purchased lambs.

These animals should be clearly marked to allow for accurate decisions to be made on culling at a later stage in the year.

While on the topic of abortion, any case should be treated as a potential outbreak and investigated. Alarm bells should sound if the incidence rises above 2%.