Summary of vaccination policy for sheep
- Vaccination of ewes against the clostridial diseases such as pulpy kidney and tetanus is good insurance against losses in lambs, because lambs are passively protected by antibodies in their mother’s colostrum for up to 3 months.
- It is best to vaccinate ewes twice while they are hoggets, then give them a booster vaccination each year about a month before lambing.
- This ensures good levels of antibodies in their milk to protect their lambs.
- Lambs from vaccinated ewes do not need to be vaccinated until they are 2 to 3 months old.
- If ewes have not been vaccinated, their lambs should be vaccinated as soon as possible, that is, at docking and again 4 to 6 weeks later.
Vaccination and the clostridial diseases
- The clostridial diseases include pulpy kidney (which causes sudden death usually in growing lambs), tetanus and the gangrene diseases malignant oedema, blackleg and black disease, which are almost always fatal.
- Fortunately vaccines against clostridial diseases are very effective, and routine vaccination of sheep is the norm on New Zealand farms.
- Vaccination is a sensible routine procedure on all farms, lifestyle blocks included.
- The most common vaccination procedure is to actively immunise all ewe lambs and male lambs from about 10 to 12 weeks of age with a sensitiser dose, followed by a booster dose 4 to 6 weeks later.
- Ewe hoggets entering the breeding flock and all older ewes in the flock are then given a booster dose before lambing.
- If ewes have been vaccinated, their colostrum will contain antibodies. If lambs drink enough colostrum in the first 24 hours of life they well be protected against clostridial diseases for up to 3 months.
- The downside of this is that the antibodies also prevent vaccination from being effective.
- This is the reason why lambs from vaccinated ewes should not be vaccinated until they are at least 10 weeks old, while lambs from unvaccinated ewes should be vaccinated at docking and again 4 to 6 weeks later.
- In flocks where the ewes have not been vaccinated, all ewes should be given their sensitiser dose either just before or 4 to 6 weeks after mating is over, and then a booster 2 to 6 weeks before lambing.
- Subsequently all vaccinated ewes should be given a booster dose each year before lambing.
- In areas where there is a history of infectious sheep abortion such as toxoplasmosis, Campylobacter abortion, or Salmonella abortion, it would be wise to discuss with a veterinarian the pros and cons of vaccination against these diseases.
- Most abortion vaccines should be given well before the rams go out in March or April.
- Horses should be vaccinated against tetanus.
- Dairy cows should be vaccinated against leptospirosis.
- And of course don’t forget the farm dog - like household pets, farm dogs should be vaccinated as pups against diseases such as distemper and parvovirus.
- They will need regular booster vaccinations during their adult life.