by: Dr. G.F. Kennedy

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. Sub acute mastitis as to whether it 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 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 some one 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 most heavy 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 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 Nuflor, Penicillin 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.


About Ask-a-Vet Sheep

Veterinary services, procedures, biologicals, and drugs mentioned in this publication represent the personal opinions and clinical observations of the contributing author. They are in no way intended to be interpreted as recommendations without the consent of the producer’s own practicing Veterinarian. We strongly urge that producers establish a patient-client-veterinarian relationship that allows extra-label use when there are no drugs approved for treatment or if approved drugs are not effective. This procedure allows veterinarians to go beyond label directions when “prudent use” is necessary. The limited availability of drugs and biologics in this country is a major factor in restricting the growth of the sheep industry and allowing producers to compete in the world market place.
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