Abortion in any species is a scary prospect and is especially worrying in our sheep flocks. Any abortions should ideally be explored and if levels go above 2% should definitely be investigated. Abortion in sheep can have an infectious or non-infectious origin. Of the infectious abortions, 80% are caused by Enzootic Abortion of Ewes (EAE), Toxoplasmosis and Campylobacter species.
What to do with an aborted ewe?
Both the ewe and aborted material will pose a risk to the rest of the flock if she has aborted due to an infectious cause. Therefore, it is highly important to isolate any ewe that has aborted from the rest of the flock and clear away the aborted material as soon as possible. For a thorough abortion investigation to be carried out, the laboratory will need the aborted lamb as well as the placenta. Place them into a water-tight bag and bring them to the practice as soon as you can. The cause of the abortion will determine the course of action for the rest of the flock and the aborted ewe. The vet dealing with your investigation will be able to discuss with you exactly what to do.
If at the end of lambing time you find out you have lots of empty ewes or more abortions than anticipated, it is possible to investigate this by taking blood samples from affected ewes.
From the end of March MSD offer a free Flock Check service which looks for antibodies to EAE and Toxoplasma.
This is useful as a retrospective look but not as useful during an abortion storm.