The vet’s calendar year on a sheep farm

Here we outline the vet’s role at the start and end points of a sheep farm’s calendar year.

The exact start and end point is actually a difficult point to predict in a dynamic farm business.

Annual sales and the shortening evenings are all indicators that the sheep calendar year is drawing to a close – though weather, factory prices, feed costs and individual business setup will all affect the exact date of sale of last years lamb crop.

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Any incidence of disease (in particular pneumonia, worms and lameness) will also affect the date lambs are sold as they have a large effect on growth rates. The vet’s role at this time of year is varied but can include providing worm egg counts for parasite burden assessments or wormer resistance, paperwork for export of breeding stock, vasectomies and advice on vaccinations ahead of the upcoming breeding season.

Parasites are the disease with the largest economic impact on the UK flock with an estimated annual loss of £84million to the sheep industry or £4.40 per sheep according to ahdb reports. Faecal egg counts are particularly useful at this time of year as worm burdens have built up on pastures over the preceding summer months.

Bringing a number of individual samples which can be pooled at the practice if required. For the most reliable and repeatable results, samples should be random and fresh.

Gathering a mob to a corner of a field and picking up samples after holding them for a few minutes is often the easiest means of getting samples (and the method advised by SCOPS). Samples should be kept cool before being brought to the vets as hatching of eggs will artificially reduce the number of eggs sighted/reported.

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For those selling breeding stock at sales such as the renowned Kelso tup sales there may be the opportunity to sell animals abroad (in particular to Ireland). Any export licence will require an on farm assessment of stock for notifiable diseases within 14 days of sale.

A notifiable disease is that which for reasons of public health, welfare or economic impact the government has listed as notifiable. The chances of finding a such a disease is of course low, however, it is just one example of the many steps and precautions in place in the UK farming industry to provide high welfare beef and lamb with unparalleled traceability. It is also a great opportunity as a vet to get out and about in the sun and admire some great stock!

Finally we start looking ahead at the next breeding season. An abundance of grass has meant that, for the most part, ewes are in good condition ahead of breeding.

Vasectomies on rams to be used as teasers should be carried out greater than four weeks before intended use while vaccination against abortion agents should be carried out more than three weeks before tupping and footvax should be given two weeks apart from other vaccines.

As ever, anyone with any questions regarding vaccines, parasites or vasectomies are invited to contact one of our surgeries.

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