Ovine Brucellosis warning for South East sheep producers

South-east sheep producers are being urged to consider the biosecurity risk imposed by the introduction of breeding rams onto their property.

Cooma District Veterinarian Kelli Griffin has diagnosed Ovine Brucellosis (Brucella ovis) in Rams on several properties in the Monaro region over the last 3 months.

Kelli said, “We have seen an increase in positive cases in recent months– with the introduction of new or purchased rams in the previous 2 to 3 years being a common theme”.

Ovine Brucellosis is an infectious bacterial disease of sheep, primarily spread by sexual activity between rams. It can also be spread during joining, when clean and infected rams mate with the same ewe. Whilst most Brucellosis is introduced by the purchase of infected rams – straying ewes or rams can also result in your flock being exposed.

Ovine Brucellosis results in inflammation of the male reproductive organs, particularly affecting the epididymis of the testes and can cause infertility. It can also occasionally result in abortion in ewes. There is no vaccination or treatment, and introduction of Brucellosis can result in significant economic losses.

“Producers may initially notice reduced lambing percentages and longer lambing periods – however, we have seen properties where these changes were mitigated by regular turn over of rams, making the losses less obvious as younger, uninfected rams were initially able to compensate for the reduced fertility of the other rams.

“Approximately 40% of Brucellosis affected rams will have testicular abnormalities on palpation.

“I would encourage all sheep producers to conduct an annual reproductive exam on all their rams at least 3 months prior to joining– the five T’s; teeth, toes, tossle, torso and testes – paying particular attention to identify rams with testicular lumps and size discrepancies between the testicles”.

It is recommended that producers seek rams directly from properties accredited under the NSW Ovine Brucellosis Accreditation Scheme.

“If buying rams from non-accredited sources – its recommended to quarantine all new ram arrivals for 60 days and have them blood tested to exclude brucellosis prior to being placed with your flock”.

For more information on Ovine Brucellosis and reproductive exams, refer to DPI prime fact sheet and Five T’s check fact sheet.

Or contact your Local Land Services District Veterinarian for advice on 1300 795 299.

Media Contact: Chris Finley, South East Communications Advisor 0477 193 761 or chris.finley@lls.nsw.gov.au

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