We are most likely to find out the cause of abortions if a foetus and placenta can be submitted to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (Truro) whilst fresh (preferably same day). If this is not possible representative samples from the foetus can be taken. Blood samples from aborted ewes in the first few months after lambing may be useful in diagnosis, and free blood tests for toxoplasmosis are available.
We have had a few farmers with ewes aborting due to toxoplasmosis this year. The most common causes of infectious abortions are enzootic abortion (caused byChlamydophila abortus) and toxoplasmosis. Most causes of sheep abortions are zoonotic therefore pose a risk to pregnant women.
Lambing figures are essential to expose a problem and can be extremely helpful for planning for next year. Vaccines are available for enzootic abortion and toxoplasmosis, therefore forward planning is essential.