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Mastitis in sheep

Intramammary infection and its impact on suckler ewes 2008 - 2012

In a recent study at the University of Warwick, funded by EBLEX, we identified that:

  • Body condition score- Ewes that were thinner were more likely to have a high somatic cell count.
  • Udder conformation- Ewe with poor udder and teat conformation can affect somatic cell count (see study below). Good udder conformation will improve milk let down, ensuring lambs do not damage the teat when suckling.
  • Lamb growth- Ewes with a high somatic cell count (SCC) in milk (an indication of infection in the udder) reared lambs that grew more slowly compared to ewes with a lower SCC
  • Ewe age- Older ewes are more susceptible to infection, possibly due to previous damage to the udder (see study below).

For more information on this study, please see our paper:

‘A cohort study of the associations between udder conformation, milk somatic cell count, and lamb weight in suckler ewes.’ Huntley SJ, Cooper S, Bradley AJ, Green LE., 2012.

Risk factors for clinical mastitis in suckler ewes 2009- present

In 2009, a cross-sectional study of 372 farmers with suckler ewes was carried out. Farmers estimated that 0.1 - 5.0% of their flock were affected with clinical mastitis. We are investigating risk factors for clinical mastitis, focussing on management practices before, during and after the lambing period. This will provide hypotheses for further investigation in flock control of mastitis and eventually help farmers to manage their ewes to reduce the occurrence of clinical mastitis.

Microbial communities in sheep mammary glands 2009-present

Microbial communities are groups of organisms that live and interact in a shared environment. Published scientific literature to date has only looked at specific bacterial species and their interactions and response in sheep. However, over 130 species of bacteria have been associated with causing mammary gland infections in cattle (Watts, 1988) and there is no reason to suggest that a similar number of bacteria species cannot infect the sheep mammary gland. Therefore, we propose that the sheep mammary gland is a place where bacteria live as part of a microbial community and that changes in this community result in the development of mastitis. This research aims to provide a new insight into what bacteria are present in the sheep mammary gland and the role of the bacterial community in mammary gland health. If we can understand more about how mastitis develops, we are better positioned to identify treatments and/or management strategies to improve mammary gland health in sheep in the long term.

Ed's study