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Free Lambs Joint Ill Post-Mortems

15 February 2017

Joint Ill is most common in lambs less than four weeks of age and in flocks housed for lambing.  Response to treatment can be poor leaving crippled, ill thriven lambs.  Typically 2 to 20% of lambs can be affected and around 1 in 5 will go on to die.  Many flocks routinely give antibiotics to all lambs in an attempt to prevent cases of joint ill.  In the current climate this is becoming harder to justify particularly if the cause of the problem is unknown.

Joint Ill is easily diagnosed in live lambs so very few cases are submitted to SAC veterinary laboratories for investigation.  Following lambing 2016 it was anecdotally reported that there had been a greater than usual number of outbreaks, large numbers of lambs affected and a particularly poor response to treatment.

There is a need for up to date information on which bacteria are responsible for outbreaks and what is the best antibiotic to treat them with.  For this reason SAC vet centres are offering free postmortem investigation of joint ill cases during lambing 2017.  The aim will be to examine affected lambs from between 50 and 80 flocks on a first come, first served basis.  Lambs should be ≤ 4 weeks of age and between 1 and 3 will be examined per flock.   Ideally at least one of the submitted lambs should be untreated.

Your veterinary practice has been informed of this project.  Please get in touch if you would like any further information.

Heather Stevenson,

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