Sales of breeding stock animals are on hold indefinitely at this point. We had a biosecurity issue crop up in one of our St Croix ewes and now must test the entire flock. We will be testing the entire flock every 6 months, roughly, until we get three negatives in a row, ensuring the problem has left. We have no idea where this has come from, but will be amping up our biosecurity protocols even more from now on.
You have no idea how heartbreaking this is for us. I’m hoping it was caught early enough that few animals catch it. We have worked so hard to get the flock where we have it, and to have to cull our favorites because of a disease is devastating.
This brings me to the next topic I want to discuss with you all. The importance of biosecurity screening.
Back in 2009 we suspected some issues with the flock (having been an old school farm that had never tested before) and decided to try testing. We started with CL (Caseous lymphadenitis) and ended up culling nearly 1/3 of the flock, much to our dismay and heartbreak over losing some favorites. The rest of the flock that came in negative was tested for OPP (Ovine Progressive Pneumonia) and we culled any positives there too. We continued to test and cull in this fashion until we came through with 3 negatives in a row with the flock. Back then we didn’t really know about Johnes Disease and didn’t spend the money on it. Suddenly we also noticed, by culling the positive sheep, we also removed opportunistic problems, like hoof rot, hoof thrush, and worm susceptible sheep (still had a few that got worms, but many went down the road), from the flock.
After we became negative for those diseases, we started testing 10% or more of the flock yearly as a baseline. Usually any adult sheep we had up for sale, plus the oldest in the flock, were the ones tested so my customers had the test in hand along with their sheep. WADDL (Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab) created a Biosecurity Screen during this time that tested for CL, OPP, and Johnes Disease all together.
Over the years, we kept coming up negative across the board, until this year. We had a symptomatic ewe in the flock. Always test the sick animals, because you just never know. We tested her along with a ram who wasn’t as thrifty as he should have been. He came back negative across the board, while she came up positive with Johnes Disease. We had her isolated and tested her a second time in case it was just a bad draw. Positive results this morning. And here we are.
I’m telling you this story because I want to be transparent with my customers and to let you all know I would never knowingly sell something I thought was sick. I feel that biosecurity screening is vital to, not just my customers, but the health of the flock in general. I urge anyone who has sheep to get their blood drawn and send it in for testing. You will lose some of your favorites, but you will stop disease from spreading and causing more stress and dismay in the future.
I just got of the phone with the Dr who ran the diagnostics on this ewe. He said it was most likely she was sick from her dam and not necessarily the fecal transmission. Her dam has been gone for a couple years now so I have no way to tell. Her age indicates she was more than likely infected as a lamb and became symptomatic in that 3-4 year age range. He agrees with my testing the whole flock and culling any positives as a means of stopping this. Sounds like it’s not quite as contagious as CL and OPP thankfully.