Sheep advice: The dangers of buying in in-lamb ewes

As we head into 2020, over the coming weeks there will be a number of in-lamb ewes on offer in marts across the country.

However – as with all purchased livestock – extra care should be taken when buying in in-lamb ewes from a mart.

The majority of farmers will isolate any sheep that have been bought from a mart for at least three weeks, so that vaccinations can be administered and to keep an eye for any signs of disease.

If farmers are planning to buy in in-lamb ewes they are taking a risk of introducing clostridial diseases and other common problems such as lameness.

Unless an animal is limping and is visually in distress, it can be difficult to identify in a mart if a pen of sheep have problems with their feet.

There have been many cases of farmers buying in sheep and only realising when they got back to the farm the health problems that the animals had.

In terms of lameness, it can’t be stressed enough the importance of keeping newly-purchased stock separate from the rest of the flock – especially if they are housed on straw bedding.

In most cases, the majority of sheep are housed on straw bedding which has the ability to spread infection in a confined area at a rapid rate. Therefore, it is important to keep the bought-in sheep separate to reduce the risk of infection spreading to the rest of the flock.

Other health problems that newly-purchased sheep should be treated for are: lice and scab; liver fluke; worms; and toxoplasmosis.

The following protocols should be adhered to when purchased stock arrive on-farm:

  • If sheep are bought from a mart they should be isolated from the rest of the flock;
  • The next task should be to administer any necessary doses or vaccinations that may be relevant. In the case of in-lamb ewes a clostridial vaccination should be given;
  • The animals should be isolated for at least three weeks so that they can be inspected for any signs of disease;
  • If it is possible, farmers should purchase animals from a known source and information on what treatments were given should be sought from the owner;
  • Animals that pose the least disease risk should be bought. In this case, young replacement female stock and rams are generally less of a disease risk than older sheep.