Check new rams for ovine brucellosis

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Visual checks are not enough to avoid ovine brucellosis when buying rams, according to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

GINGIN farmers are being reminded to check for the reproductive disease ovine brucellosis before buying new rams this season.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development  said bringing in rams infected with ovine brucellosis would result in reduced productivity and profitability.

The department’s field veterinary officer Kristine Rayner said ovine brucellosis reduced ram fertility, leading to poor lambing percentages and was expensive to eradicate once established.

But Dr Rayner said there were steps producers could take to avoid buying rams with ovine brucellosis.

“Visual and physical checks of ram testes for odd swellings are important, but are not enough,’’ she said.

“Rams with ovine brucellosis may have normal looking testes and do not appear sick.

“We encourage ram buyers to request negative blood test results for ovine brucellosis before buying, or to consider buying rams from flocks accredited under the WA Ovine Brucellosis Accreditation Scheme.

She said producers should also ask for a national sheep health declaration.

Dr Rayner said producers in the accreditation scheme were able to provide a high level of assurance of freedom from ovine brucellosis for their flock as had to have regular negative test results and demonstrate good biosecurity practices to be accredited.

She said the best time to check rams for ovine brucellosis was before they arrived on the farm.

“If testing is not done before the rams arrive, they should be isolated and have two blood tests 60 days apart with negative results before mixing with other stock.

“Ewes that have recently mated with infected rams also risk infecting clean rams if they are exposed in the same oestrus cycle.

“(So) ewes introduced onto a farm should not be joined for a minimum of four months to ensure they clear any potential infection with ovine brucellosis.”