This time of year is always super busy for prospective vets, with preparations for interviews in full swing. As such, many of our Vet News Editors have taken a bit of a sabbatical to focus on their interviews. We all wish them the best of luck and look forward to their articles next month. Having said this, one of our editors, Emma, has dug deep and in spite of preparing for an interview on Friday has written a great article on efforts to encourage farmers to scan their ewes.
Farmers encouraged to scan ewes
Emma Plowright (Farm News Editor)
In early lambing flocks in the Midlands and northern England, pregnancy tests have revealed greater than normal numbers of barren ewes. This has been a cause for concern among farmers with many worrying that Schmallenberg virus is responsible for the figures. Experts have however urged that farmers do not panic as there are many possible explanations.
One of these is that the recent incredibly wet weather has led to compromised nutrition. Poor nutrition in sheep can lead to subfertility or infertility. Naturally, this means that a ewe is more likely to be barren. Thinner ewes produce fewer eggs and are more likely to reabsorb an embryo if fertilisation does occur.
Liz Genever from EBLEX is encouraging farmers to scan their ewes 75-85 days after tupping. This way, if ewes are barren, there is still a time to tup again. She highlighted the fact that it is the length of the days which determines the ewes’ fertility. As we get deeper in to winter, the chances of getting ewes into lamb decreases. She advises that up until mid-December, there is still a chance to get the barren ewes into lamb whilst after Christmas she believes it to be very unlikely. Where large numbers of ewes are not in lamb, there will be economic consequences for the farmers involved.
The normal barren rate on a sheep farm is around 4-5%. When farmers notice that rates are higher than this, Genever advises that they should contact their vet immediately. Blood tests can then be carried out to see if the ewes have been exposed to an abortion agent. In this way, the cause of the problem can be understood and approached appropriately. Toxoplasmosis, for example, is a major cause of early embryo loss in sheep and blood tests can confirm its presence in a flock.