14 July 1995

£30m is annual bill for infectious abortion

INFECTIOUS abortion is costing the British sheep industry more than £30m a year because producers are reacting too slowly to early losses.

"Many farmers have a too little too late attitude to abortion," senior ADAS sheep specialist, Lesley Stubbings, told a sheep disease workshop at Moulton College, Northampton.

"A recent survey revealed that the trigger point for action concerning abortion is not reached until losses climb to 5%. That is far too high, and way out of line with producer reaction to other problems."

The cost of such a casual approach to abortion control was high. In general, a 1% abortion rate generated a 2% reduction in gross margin a ewe.

Based on ADASs 1993 lowland gross margin of £42.60/ewe, it cost a flockmaster £85 when one ewe in 100 aborted.

Although abortion costs sheep producers about the same as worm problems, they spent only £3m a year trying to control it, compared with £15m fighting worms.

Ian Mawhinney, Mycofarms technical manager, said Enzovax and Toxovax vaccines could effectively control enzootic abortion (EAE) and toxoplasmosis. But a survey of 258 farms showed that half were infected with EAE, and two-thirds had toxoplasmosis.