Diagnostic service now available for any aborting ewes

UK sheep farmers experiencing more than 2% of their flock aborting this lambing season can now ask their vet to test any affected ewes for exposure to toxoplasmosis and enzootic abortion (EAE).

The MSD Animal Health EXPERTIS® FlockCheck diagnostic service is now available until the end of July 2018. The established scheme, which has been subsidised by the company for more than 10 years now, is available to sheep farmers from vet practices nationwide. It requires vets to take blood samples from six to eight aborted, unvaccinated ewes.

FlockCheck blood test results consistently show that the majority of aborted sheep tested have been exposed to either toxoplasmosis or EAE – and sometimes both – despite the availability of cost-effective vaccines.

According to MSD Animal Health veterinary adviser Stephanie Small MRCVS, both toxoplasmosis and EAE can be responsible for abortion or weak lambs, which can increase workload and stress during lambing. Profit may also be reduced significantly, she stresses, but using FlockCheck as an aid to specific diagnosis can be the first step towards a control plan to help in improving a sheep flock’s future potential and overall economic performance.

“Aggregated data from the 2017 FlockCheck scheme highlighted that 81 percent of flocks tested showed evidence of exposure to the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. The data also showed that approximately three quarters of flocks had been exposed to Chlamydophila abortus bacteria, the organism causing enzootic abortion (EAE); just under two thirds of flocks had been exposed to both organisms,” Ms Small said.
“If either toxoplasmosis or EAE has been diagnosed in a flock, vaccination is the most effective way to help protect against these diseases for future years. The TOXOVAX® toxoplasmosis vaccine is known to protect the ewe for at least two lambing seasons and, conveniently, can be given to breeding females at any time between four months and four weeks before tupping.

“The ENZOVAX® enzootic abortion vaccine helps protect the ewe for at least three years against EAE and all breeding females should be vaccinated any time between four months and three weeks before tupping,” Ms Small said.

Farmers interested in taking advantage of the 2018 subsidised EXPERTIS® FlockCheck diagnostic service should contact their local practice as soon as possible. This year’s blood samples must be submitted by 31st July 2018.