Sheep disease alert

With lambing underway or about to get underway on almost 2,000 farms in Roscommon, farmers have been urged to protect their flocks against two new strains of killer diseases. The new diseases, which are caused by ‘clostridial’ bacteria, almost invariably result in the death of unprotected sheep. Post mortem results over the last couple of years from the Department of Agriculture’s veterinary laboratories confirm that farmers have lost sheep due to these new strains.  Ewes that have difficult births are particularly prone to infection by one of the strains   Fergal Morris, veterinary specialist with Schering Plough Animal Health, said discovery of the new strains brings to ten the number of known strains of clostridial diseases in sheep. Pulpy kidney, lamb dysentery, braxy, black disease and tetanus are among the common fatal clostridial diseases that have been an ever-present hazard on sheep farms for decades. Fergal Morris stressed that all clostridial bacteria are capable of surviving for years in the soil because of their ability to form spores, which protect them from the weather. Because it is practically impossible to prevent animals from coming in contact with the bacteria, he said the only effective control is to build up resistance through strategic use of a vaccine.