VET’S DIARY: Time to review your flock performance

Now the tups are working and a new sheep year is beginning, it is a good time to review your flock’s performance, writes Joe Henry.

This year’s EBLEX stocktake shows a big difference in profit per ewe from £18 per ewe to minus £13 per ewe for top-third and average producers respectively.

One way of making sure you are nearer the top is getting ewe mortality rates down, and so reducing your replacement rate.

Ideally below four per cent, but we have got farms where it is only one per cent.

Check in your movement records how many ewes have died this year and when and why.

Tell your vet and they can use this information to help you pinpoint where attention will have most returns.

A common cause of increased replacement rates are wasting sheep and even this autumn when most ewes are fit, there have been a proportion of thin ewes on some farms.

Some of the causes might by the tip of a much bigger flock problem that could get out of control unless tackled, eg Haemochosis worms or Maedi Visna.

When we are investigateing the cause of wasting sheep, there are a number of checks we perform.

Poor dentition not only affects a sheep’s incisors.

Just as important are the molars, which, if poorly aligned, grow over long and prevent effective digestion of food.

Chronically lame sheep will be thin and the various causes have different treatment and prevention strategies.

One way we can narrow down the causes of wasting is by checking thin sheep’s blood in house for blood proteins which can rule in or out some of the main causes, eg Johnes, chronic infection, lung abcess, fluke, worms etc.

Johnes in sheep is not always accompanied with scour like in cattle and recently a vaccine which is effective in reducing the impact of the disease has become available.

Another way to get your diagnosis now that cull ewe prices are so poor is to sacrifice a few and send them to the local vet lab which will perform subsidised post mortems.

Whenever investigating wasting, it is important to test a representative sample and not just to pick one.

So if the only cull ewes you have left are the ones that will not fatten, call us in to find out why.

It could save your business a lot in the long run.