EXPERTIS™ Barren EweCheck – the diagnostic scheme supported by MSD Animal Health (known as Merck Animal Health in the United States and Canada) – is now available from vets until 31st March 2015.

Toxoplasmosis is the main infectious cause of early embryo loss in sheep and is a very common cause of barrenness, abortion and weak lambs born alive. Data from the 2014 EXPERTIS Barren EweCheck scheme showed that 85% of flocks tested had been exposed to the toxoplasma parasite.

According to MSD Animal Health technical manager, John Atkinson MRCVS, sheep pick up the toxoplasma parasite from the environment – from contaminated pasture, feed and water, for example.

“Infected cats shed toxoplasma eggs in their faeces and sheep pick up these eggs as they eat. The eggs are tough and can survive in the environment for over a year, which means farmers need to take steps to protect their sheep. The good news is that where toxoplasma infection has been confirmed in a flock the disease can be controlled effectively by a vaccination regime. What’s more, the costs of a prevention programme can be easily covered by a reduction in future flock barren rates,” he says.

Producers concerned about a high proportion of empty or aborting ewes should talk to their vet about the service as soon as possible.