23 August 2002

BEEXTRA-VIGILANTONHEALTH STATUS

By Jonathan Long

AS breeding sheep sales return, producers need to be more aware than any other year of the health status of sheep they are buying in.

In particular, flockmasters will need to watch out for Maedi visna (MV) and caseous lympadinitis (CLA), two conditions that have become more prevalent in the two years since breeding sales were last held, according to Cumbria-based vet Matt Colston.

"MV can be avoided by buying stock from flocks accredited under the Sheep and Goat Health Scheme. To avoid CLA, buyers should check the jaw and upper neck of sheep for lumps and abscesses which ooze puss. These are often a clear sign of CLA.

"As a general rule, stock coming onto farms should be isolated for at least 14 days before being mixed with the rest of the flock. This gives time for any serious health concerns to be detected and addressed," says Mr Colston.

"Wormer resistance is also becoming more of an issue. To assess this sheep should be drenched while isolated, with a faecal egg count done before and after treatment to assess any possible resistance. In addition, check for foot-rot and scab."

Flocks with existing vaccination programmes should extend these to all bought-in replacement stock. Where possible, buy from flocks where vaccination programmes for conditions such as enzootic abortion are underway, advises Mr Colston.

"Buying sheep from local sources is also a good idea as diseases tend to have local patterns. It is better to buy sheep which have already been exposed to local diseases rather than bring in naive stock."

Producers looking to buy rams this autumn should source them at least six weeks before they are likely to use them to allow rams to settle and avoid any initial infertility problems.

Infertility is unlikely to be a major problem in ewes this autumn as long as they are well fed pre-tupping, says Mr Colston. "This does not just mean flushing ewes in the last 2-3 weeks before tupping; they should be on a rising plain of nutrition for about 6-8 weeks before rams are introduced."

The 20-day standstill legislation will continue to cause problems for many producers, although recent rule changes should make life easier for many flockmasters, according to Chris Lloyd, NSA commercial manager.

"While NSA is committed to relieving the industry of this unnecessary burden, producers should start planning their sales and purchases now to ensure sure they are not caught out by the rules," says Mr Lloyd.

Sales are likely to run to similar formats as in previous years, although some field based sales are likely to relocate to market sites and a number of the smaller fairs will not reappear this season. &#42

Buying sheep from local sources means they will already have been exposed to local bugs.

&#8226 Check health status.

&#8226 Isolate on farm.

&#8226 Buy early.