Biosecurity measures

Occasionally some flocks let their guard down with regard to biosecurity in the lead up to or during the busy lambing time. The trading of foster ewes, orphan lambs or in-lamb ewes will increase in frequency in the coming weeks.

The trade suits many farmers, but buyers need to be mindful of the biosecurity risks and take the appropriate measures to protect their flocks.

In-lamb ewes and foster ewes should be isolated from the main flock until such time that you can be sure any disease risk has reduced to a minimum. The greatest concern with foster ewes surrounds abortion-causing agents being responsible for the loss of lambs.

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

Information on the cause of disease in lambs should be sought, and any suspicions on the health of ewes should raise immediate concern.

Foster ewes should also be kept separate from the main flock and a similar cautious approach should be practiced with orphan lambs. Such animals should be clearly marked to allow for accurate decisions to be made on culling at a later stage in the year.

When discussing abortion, any case should be treated as a potential outbreak and investigated.

It is normal for many flocks to experience an isolated case of abortion, which on the face of it looks like it could be linked to injury, disease (twin-lamb disease for example) or a ewe with a high litter size succumbing to additional strain on their system.

Each incidence should be treated with caution and alarm bells should sound if the incidence rate rises above 2% to 3%.

The best chances of an accurate diagnosis on the cause of abortion is where foetal membranes are included where possible with the foetus, and submission to the lab is swift. Remember, the submission of samples must be organised through your vet.

Dosing ewes

The risk of increasing the rate at which anthelmintic resistance develops on sheep farms through the dosing of healthy ewes was highlighted once again at this week’s Teagasc national sheep conferences.

New Zealand specialist Dave Leathwick’s presentation will be covered in detail in the coming weeks.

Refraining from dosing such ewes is critical in maintaining a population of susceptible worms in the environment and reducing the rate at which resistance occurs.

The only mature ewes that should receive treatment is in cases where there is a demonstrated need and veterinary advice recommends this approach.

For most flocks, treatment for liver fluke should be higher on the agenda than worm control. Remember that ewes will be unnecessarily treated for worms where combination products are used.

CAP information meeting

The Irish Farmers Journal, supported by AIB and the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine will hold the next in our series of CAP Information Meetings on Tuesday 31 January in Mullingar Park Hotel, Co Westmeath at 7.30pm.

The event will discuss changes to the Basic Payment Scheme under the CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027, including case studies. It will also explain a number of new schemes being introduced under the next CAP. Register at