Farmers urged to test for enzootic abortion this spring

Sheep farmers are being urged to test for enzootic abortion of ewes (EAE) if they experience abortions in the flock during lambing.

Ceva Animal Health is offering farmers subsidised testing for EAE through its campaign, For Flock’s Sake Get Tested.

Caused by Chlamydophila abortus, EAE is the most commonly diagnosed cause of abortion in UK sheep, costing the UK sheep industry up to £20m annually. 

The most recent Animal and Plant Health Agency/Scotland’s Rural College Small Animal Ruminant Quarterly Report for disease surveillance and emerging threats during Q1 2020 revealed that 42% of all diagnosed abortion cases during this period were attributed to EAE (177 out of 420 cases). 

One of the issues that could contribute to these levels of disease is the ability of the bacteria to lay latent in ewes until the next pregnancy. One infected sheep aborting and then shedding at lambing has the potential to infect multiple ewes that will abort at their next lambing.

See also: Guide to preventing enzootic abortion in ewes

Ewes can be tested for Chlamydophila abortus within three months of lambing. Farmers are advised to investigate if 2% or more of the flock has aborted or if two or more ewes have aborted over two to three days, irrespective of the size of the flock.

Obtaining an accurate diagnosis in cases of abortion is key to putting future prevention plans in place. 

“EAE can be incredibly frustrating and expensive to deal with, which is amplified by the bacteria’s ability to lay latent in ewes,” said Katherine Timms, ruminant veterinary adviser at Ceva Animal Health. 

She added: “It is therefore important that any abortion outbreak is identified and managed as quickly and efficiently as possible to help prevent other ewes from getting contaminated and causing an abortion storm.

“Vaccination, along with strict biosecurity, offer the best protection against EAE and can be done any time from five months of age until four weeks before tupping, as long as the ewe is not in-lamb.”

What to do if you suspect EAE

  • Contact your vet if 2% or more of your total flock have aborted, or if two or more have aborted over two to three days, irrespective of the size of the flock
  • Ideally, send the whole lamb foetus and placenta for testing. If this is not possible, arrange for your vet to take samples to send to the lab
  • If there are multiple lambs from the same ewe, send the freshest foetus and placenta
  • Make sure the sample is as fresh as possible, as this will give the best results
  • When investigating an abortion outbreak, try to sample more than one ewe
  • Clearly identify any ewes that have aborted if blood samples are needed and ensure that the mark will last until sampling/repeat after shearing. Ewes can be blood-sampled up to three months after lambing
  • Isolate ewes for three weeks after an abortion, as Chlamydophila abortus can live in the environment for this period of time
  • Destroy any bedding material that the ewe could have contaminated and thoroughly disinfect the area

For further information on testing, contact your local vet or visit