Sheep may benefit from toxoplasmosis check

Sheep farmers with a barren rate of more than 2% can now receive a subsidised flock blood test to establish whether the cause is toxoplasmosis.

Barren EweCheck, the diagnostic scheme supported by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, is available from vets until 31 March 2010.

Producers concerned about empty or aborting ewes should talk to their vet about the service as soon as possible, says Paul Williams, Intervet/Schering-Plough.

“Toxoplasmosis is the main infectious cause of early embryonic loss in sheep and is a common cause of barrenness, abortion and weak lambs born alive.”

And data from the 2009 Barren EweCheck scheme showed 69% of flocks tested had been exposed to the toxoplasma parasite.

“Toxoplasma is an environmental contaminant spread by infected cats. This means all flocks are at risk because it only takes one brief visit from an infected cat to contaminate the whole farm,” Mr Williams explains.

“The good news is, where toxoplasma infection has been confirmed in a flock the disease can be controlled effectively by a vaccination regime.

“What’s more, the costs of a prevention programme can be easily covered by a reduction in future barren rates.”