Ram buyers reminded to check for ovine brucellosis (WA)

The Department of Agriculture and Food is reminding sheep farmers to check all new rams for ovine brucellosis.
The best time to check rams is before they come onto the farm, but if this is not possible they should be isolated until appropriate checks are performed.

Merredin district veterinary officer Roy Butler said that ovine brucellosis was present in a small number of Western Australian flocks, and ram buyers should take care not to buy infected rams and infect their own flocks.

“Unfortunately, the first time some farmers learn about this disease is when damage has already been done and infected rams are identified as the cause of unexpectedly low scanned pregnancies or lamb marking percentages,” Dr Butler said.

“A careful physical examination of rams that may be brought onto the farm should be routine.

 “The ram’s testes should be symmetrical, reasonably firm and springy, movable in the scrotum and free of odd swellings, especially at the top or bottom of each testis.

“Proof of a current negative blood test for ovine brucellosis adds confidence, but may not guarantee ovine brucellosis freedom.

“For extra assurance, check whether the vendor is currently one of the 130-plus accredited members of the Ovine Brucellosis Accreditation Scheme in Western Australia .”

Dr Butler said ovine brucellosis-infected rams behaved like normal rams and were not obviously sick, but over time their fertility gradually declined.

“Ovine brucellosis is a bacterial infection. It cannot be prevented by vaccination nor can infected rams be successfully treated.

“Infected rams spread the disease to other rams. Ewes are involved in the spread to only a small degree.

“The best thing to do with an infected ram is to cull it.”

 For more information, contact your private veterinarian or visit www.agric.wa.gov.au and search on ‘ovine brucellosis’.

Source: Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia

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