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Ewe Abortion

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Well, it's that time of year for me.


I had a few suspect cases last year and having never dealt with abortion before (at least I didn't THINK so), don't remember what measures to take. Tests? I guess it's probably too late as I should have had the fetuses tested, huh? But next time, should there be one?


How about vaccines? Or prophylactic medications? I've heard of pen injections being effective?


This would be the time for my vaccines should I go that route as I'll be running the rams in within a couple months. The small bit of information I WAS able to gather was that the vaccinations have to be done 60 days prior.


Significantly, I've never had a problem with this until this year, I mentioned? I vaccinated with vibrio my first years, not knowing that you don't really vaccinate until you know what you've got. Then someone told me I was wasting my money. I've forgotten why I picked vibrio but maybe I picked a winner? I may have actually been having problems the last THREE years but have had crazy stuff going on those previous years and assumed high lamb loss was due to bad management. [hitting head on desk]

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I guess I should be more specific about my past problems, so I don't look like an idiot who doesn't know what an abortion looks like. I may be an idiot, but I'm the kind who knows what an early ewe abortion looks like!


Anyway, I've had increasing lamb losses over the last few years in spite of tightening management (not coddling, hard culling combined with improved pasture and feed and management of other health issues like the se/E/CA deficency). These lambs are born small but healthy, sometimes nurse, sometimes don't, sometimes die without standing, sort of typical stuff you'd see in a large flock but we're not a large flock.


We have a lot of twins where one twin dies at birth or shortly after. That's what suddenly got the bells ringing. This year we had one twin actually born too early while the other was full term. That was the first time we actually had a preterm birth - a typical "abortion". But then I got to wondering whether I've had EA this whole time!!!

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I'm not knowledgable enough to help you of course but since we're on the subject, could I ask a newbie question?

Does a ewe show her pregnancy like a horse does?

The reason I'm wondering is the deal I had with the hay farmer was that I could have whatever was left in the barn after the Orthodox Easter just past. For $300, I got 8 sheep. Six are adult ewes, 3 had trips, 2 had twins, don't know if the last one is preggers or not. He saw his ram breeding late (around Christmas) and one ewe has quite the udder going on. He pointed out which one hadn't lambed but they are all white sheep and I can't remember which one he was pointing at. She is a maiden ewe, he said to just leave her with her flock and let her be. Since they are Dorsets, he didn't have a specific breeding time of year. They are 3 yrs and 2 yr olds, all their lambs were weaned and all sold except two .

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Could it be Lepto? I went through one year that I was losing lambs left and right - seems like every ewe lambed early and/or dead lambs. Lepto was my guess - and guess is what it was, but they were late term abortions. My guess at the cause was that I had just bought some ewes that late summer that came from a home that vaccinated for everything. I don't know if my un-vaccinated ewes were "exposed" because of the others' vaccination or not, was just a theory. For a year or two after that, I had problems with first-time ewes (any that hadn't been present that disastrous year) but seem to have gotten away from whatever the problem was. Just a thought. There is a vax for it, but it has to be given at a certain time - don't remember when. Mid-States carries it, I believe.

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I'll give you a tip when you're going and buying sheep like this until you're better at telling sheep apart.


Bring a marking crayon. When he says, "yeah, that 'un bred late and you'll get a lamb from her in May or June" - whip out your crayon, put a big mark on her somwhere, and then write in a notebook, "pink mark on left hip, seller states bred and and expect lambing May/June." Ignore the laughs of the farmer. Later you can put a more definite mark on her and transfer the inforamtion.


To answer your question directly, yes, if she's bagging up she's probably pregnant. How pregnant is a mystery known only to God and man. You'll have a better idea once you've owned that same ewe for a few years but until then I have to tell you every ewe is different and every ewe bags up differently every year. But it could be more than six weeks or it could be any day now. Does that help? :rolleyes: There's lambing tables you can use if he thinks she was "tupped" around Christmas.

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Hi Becca,

Funny you should bring this topic up because I have been thinking about some of the same things. This is the first year I have had any problems, but I have had 2 ewes lamb twins where one is normal/large and the 2nd is tiny - less than 5#. These lambs look premature but the twin looks normal. One is doing great & while shorter than the twin, she is stocky & keeps putting on weight.

The other lamb was worse off to start - he couldn't regulate his temperature at all & spent about 20 hours in the house. I had to warm him every hour or so until he finally stabilized. He is doing better now although he is turning into a bottle lamb because after 20 hours, was rejected by the ewe & I thought I had grafted him onto another ewe, but he was having such a hard time nursing at first that she finally said that there was no way this was a lamb of hers.


I have been debating the cause of these two lambs - I guess since I have had no deaths, I can't figure out exactly what my problem is, so I'm not sure if I should do anything or wait until next year when I can figure out what my real problem is - I guess I am risking alot of deaths if I do nothing though. And the last thing I want is more lambs like these two.


I'd be interested in what you decide to do.



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Lambing Season before last, we had a disaster of a lambing season! Our flock became infested with a disease (can't remember the name of it off hand, but could tell you after I get home and look it up) that causes abortions. I don't know if your problems are this large in numbers or not. This disease is caused by cats - not to be gross, but the cats leave fecal matter on the hay/silage/corn, whatever - and this can transfer this particular abortion disease into the ewes. Then the ewes in turn spread it amongst themselves through water or any contact with an aborted fetus or the afterbirth. Considering that we have WAY too many barn cats running around, we have no doubt that this is what caused our problem. The vet came out (he also raises sheep, so is very knowledgeable and familiar with sheep). He did take a fetus and have it tested, but the results were inconclusive, but he still had no doubt that this disease was the cause of our problems.


We were told to add Auremycin (I never can spell that right!) to their feed. This DID help reduce the number of abortions that we were having. It didn't completely solve the problem, but it helped. The up side of this disease (if there can be an up side) is that once the ewe gets the disease and aborts, the ewe is then immune to the disease after that.


This : "We have a lot of twins where one twin dies at birth or shortly after. That's what suddenly got the bells ringing. This year we had one twin actually born too early while the other was full term." Sounds very familiar! And the fact that the lambs that ARE born alive are very small. We had some there were actually born alive, but I could hold them in the palm of my hand (and I'm pretty little myself) - of course, these didn't make it in the long run either. They weren't aborted, but were premature, and therefore, their lungs weren't developed enough yet.


It was disastrous and we probably only have about 20-25 ewe lambs that survived from that lambing season - doesn't sound bad, until you consider that we had 300 ewes lamb!


Thank God we only had about a handful of abortions this year - which we were expecting because we were told and read that if the ewe develops this disease and doesn't lamb, she will abort her lamb(s) when she DOES get pregnant the first time after contracting the disease.


I'm rambling here, so I'll get to the point - The main thing that helped the problem once we had it was adding the Auremycin to their feed (we still do this shortly before lambing time). The second thing we did was clean, clean, clean. I know your set-up is much different than mine, because of the weather differences. But, if there was any standing water on concrete that they had access to, we cleared the water away. We changed all bedding. And cleaned down all concrete, etc.


Again, I'm not sure if your problems are this large. And, I may be way off base. I don't know for sure if your ewes are always on pasture or do they have somewhere to come to off of pasture? do they get fed solely pasture or are you also feeding silage/hay/corn? Knowing that your set-up is completely different than mine - this may have nothing to do with your situation at all. Just thought I'd put my two-cents in and share my horrible experience.

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