2013-04-10 xml
Farmers Warned to be Extra-Vigilant for Signs of Ewe Mastitis

There may be a higher risk of mastitis in ewes as a result of the recent extreme weather conditions, EBLEX has warned.

Acute mastitis usually affects between one and five per cent of ewes every year. It is generally seen in the first week after lambing and at peak lactation, and can rapidly progress to death.


photo © farm-images.co.uk

As a consequence of the sustained freezing temperatures, the supply of feed available during the peak lactation period is severely limited and there is a risk that ewes may lose milk yield and body condition. This, together with contamination of the udder with mud and aggravation by cold winds, are all risk factors in the occurrence of acute mastitis.

Another important risk factor is teat lesions caused by hungry lambs, which is a particular problem when the ewe’s milk yield is dropping as their demand is increasing. It may be worth considering introducing certain lambs on to creep feed to help meet their rising demand and to reduce this risk, but this will depend on the farm’s individual system and when lambs are being marketed.

Effective treatment of mastitis depends on a rapid response in order to save the life of the ewe, although it is still unlikely to save udder function.

Veterinary consultant Fiona Lovatt advises taking the following steps to deal with cases of mastitis:

• The ewe should be brought in and penned individually, so that good care can be given to both her and her lambs, which will need supplementary feeding. She needs access to plenty of clean water and may need to be tempted to eat.

• Veterinary advice should be sought and usually their recommended treatment is an injectable antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory drug.

• The infection can be within the milk, the udder tissue or the inflammatory cells. Ideally the antibiotic needs to reach each of these locations and remain at high enough levels to achieve a cure.

• Some effective drugs can only be given by vets, which is obviously an extra expense but may be worthwhile for a valuable ewe.

• Long-acting antibiotics can be useful as it means it is not necessary to treat every day, although of course the ewe should be checked regularly.

• It could be worth talking to your vet about anti-inflammatory drugs, as they reduce pain and the amount of toxin produced by the bacteria that causes mastitis.

• Some vets may also prescribe antibiotic tubes to be injected into the teat. If these are to be used then it is essential that very strict hygiene is adhered to.


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