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The importance of quarantining

Sylvaine Lacrosse BVetMed MRCVS, Molecare Farm Vets

COVID-19 has demonstrated how devastating the spread of disease can be in the human sphere, with all of us living under restrictions over the past few months in order to quarantine the disease and prevent its’ spread. However whilst words such as isolation and quarantine were up until recently rarely used for the majority of the population, they are words that farmers are very familiar with, and have been using for years when dealing with disease control amongst their animals, particularly when buying in stock.

With the autumn ram sales around the corner, we are urging farmers to think seriously about protecting their flocks from potential diseases through the introduction of new animals and highlighting the important of good biosecurity practice.

What diseases should I think about with bought in sheep?

Typically when going to the sales, farmers will be cautious of diseases or symptoms based on previous experience on-farm, however not everyone is aware of how disastrous and devastating it is to buy in something like resistant worms, abortive agents, CODD, etc. As these conditions tend not to be as wide spread as others, their severity and impact is often misunderstood. As a vets practice we want to ensure farmers are protecting their farms against as many of these diseases as possible to protect the welfare of the animals and the productivity of the farms. These diseases that are of particular concern include are:

  • Sheep Scab
  • Lameness; foot-rot and Contagious Ovine Digital Dermatitis (CODD)
  • Resistant worms
  • Fluke
  • Abortion diseases such as: Enzootic Abortion and Toxoplasmosis
  • Orf virus

Introducing an effective quarantine period

The initial quarantine period should be no less than 4 weeks this allows enough time to preventatively treat the sheep as well as giving time for diseases such as foot-rot and CODD to manifest themselves before the bought-in sheep join the main flock.

We are often asked for our advice on what to do if any lame sheep are identified during quarantine. Firstly, you need to isolate the lame sheep from the quarantine group and follow your vets suggested treatment protocol. Secondly, we would advise considering if you are happy for these sheep to join your main flock, risk assessing the situation and the likely recurrence of the disease. If you are not happy with the bought in sheep we would suggest a conversation with the seller.

Where should I keep my quarantined animals?

Away from your main flock! In the first instance, the Sustainable Control of Parasite for Sheep (SCOPS) suggestion is to house sheep on yarded ground for 24-48 hours. This prevents any worm eggs from making their way to pasture as well as being able to have a good look at the condition of the sheep’s feet looking for Foot-rot and CODD.

Sheep are then to be moved to a contaminated pasture for at least 3 weeks. This is in case any resistant worms survive treatment, they will be diluted by the farm’s resident worm population.

What treatments should I be giving?

It is best to consult your vet alongside the SCOPS guidelines. This is because treatment options are risk-based and categorised as gold, silver or bronze.

Example gold standard quarantine (high scab risk)

1Inspect feet & Foot-bathLamenessYarded
Moxidectin injectionWorms/ScabYarded
4-AD = Monepantel (Zolvix™) and 5-SI = Derquantel / abamectin (Startect™)Resistant wormsYarded
2Turnout – Dirty pasture (+/- Fly pour-on)FliesPasture
7Check Feet & Foot-bathLamenessPasture
7Start flock Vaccinations as requiredE.g. Enzootic abortion, Toxoplasmosis, Foot-rot, ClostridiaPasture
28Sheep can be mixed (If necessary & no diseases shown)Pasture

Source: https://www.scops.org.uk/workspace/pdfs/quarantine-options-table.pdf

It should also be mentioned that sharing handling facilities, shearer’s trailers and scanning races all pose a threat to biosecurity and efforts should be made with regards to strict disinfection between usages. Sheep grazing on other farms or common grazing should additionally be quarantined similarly to ones bought-in.

Our advice would be to always have a detailed quarantine protocol in place that has been worked on with your vet. The main aim is to prevent disease and maintain high biosecurity as this is the best way to protect your flock from the introduction of any new diseases.

If you are due to go to market soon, and would like any further advice on the prevention of bought-in diseases, contact Molecare Farm Vets by emailing [email protected]

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