Abortion in Sheep
There are many circumstances which can lead a ewe to abort a pregnancy.
Many abortions are caused from environmental conditions that are controllable. Some of these conditions include moldy feed with mold spores infecting the placenta and reducing nourishment to the fetus. Injury is often a cause of aborting pregnancy. A ram may run with pregnant ewes and bump them away from hay or feed. Narrow doorways where sheep rush through for feed can result in bumping or other injury causing stress resulting in abortion. Ewes being chased by dogs or other wild animals can be detrimental to the pregnancy cycle.
Bacterial disease like Vibriosis can invade the uterus, placenta and fetus during late pregnancy. Enzootic abortion of ewes is caused by an organism called Chlamydia which causes late term abortions, still birth and weak lambs. It is an obligate parasite (doesn’t live freely in the environment) of sheep and spread to susceptible ewes by contact with aborting ewes infected fetal membrane, uterine discharge or a dead fetus.
Toxoplasmosis is a microscopic protozoan (coccidium) of cats. In unnatural hosts such as sheep and other species including humans, the organism causes infection of the brain, eyes, uterus, fetal membrane and the fetus itself. Infections occur when cats defecate, leaving the infectious organism on hay, grain or other food consumed by sheep. Ground-up grain is a common target because it’s much like a ready-made sand pile.
Since abortion symptoms are all very similar, it may take analysis from your livestock vet to identify the exact cause. Closed herds with strict sanitation and proper vaccinations will lower abortion rates and improve the overall health of your flock.
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