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Mastitis

Mastitis in sheep, from my view point, is poorly understood. In acute mastitis, treatment targets salvaging the ewe and seldom, if ever, does the infected portion of udder remain functional. As to whether sub-acute mastitis exists and shows up following years is anybody’s guess. Then you have the OPP people that believe based on a blood test that the majority of the adult ewes are positive to that all hard bag is OPP. Far from it, you can create hard bag by feeding too high a level of protein and I strongly suspect many hard bag ewes have had sub-acute infection in previous lactations. In some instances, they have been assembled as culls and resold into the market place as breeding ewes. First time lambing ewes that have been fed too hard will deposit fat in the udder and will never milk well. Good luck taking over weight, fat, bred ewe lambs out of a feed lot and trying to make ewes out of them.

Prevention is a challenge, but there are some considerations that have value. Be aware that assembled sheep may be someone else’s culls. Don’t overfeed ewe lambs that are to be kept for breeding. Pull ewe lambs off of full feed when they reach eighty pounds. Don’t over feed high quality alfalfa hay prior to lambing. Generally, a half pound of corn or equivalent along with medium quality hay is sufficient prior to lambing. Beware of feeding a 16% concentrate if protein level in roughage is adequate. Maintain good husbandry conditions. The heaviest milking ewes will be the most vulnerable. Don’t strip out after weaning.

Symptoms of acute mastitis include ewes going off feed, depression, swelling and hardness of udder and unilateral lameness. Generally, there is a foul smelling reddish secretion from the teat. Udder may feel cool, normal or warm. Crepitation would indicate gangrene.

Treatment targets salvaging the ewe and many of these ewes will be heavy milkers and if you can get them through clinical symptoms they still may be able to raise twins. Lambs may need to be tubed in the interim. I like to use NuflorPenicillin and Dexemethasone. Nuflor is six cc per 100 pounds of body weight given subcutaneously, repeat in 48 hours.  Penicillin is given at the rate of ten cc per 100 pounds body weight given subcutaneosly daily. Dexamethasone is five cc subcutaneously but only given once. LA 200 may be substituted at five cc per 100 pounds subcutaneously for Nuflor. Mastitis tubes are useless. If gangrene develops you may want to open the infected teat so it can drain. With gangrene the affected portion will slough. Not many develop gangrene but one should be aware of the process when it happens. If a ewe is retained for breeding next year the affected portion will be non-functional.

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