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While there can be various causes for abortion in ewes, such as bad handling procedure or movement, if there is an abortion rate of more than two per cent in a flock, it generally suggests the cause is an infection. Infectious abortion usually occurs after day 100 of pregnancy. According to the National Animal Disease Information Service, Enzootic abortion of ewes, Toxoplasma gondii and Campylobacter species cause over 70 per cent of abortion outbreaks in the UK.

Chlamydial abortion (or Enzootic abortion of ewes) accounts for about half the infectious abortions and is caused by Chlamydophila abortus. The discharge, dead lambs and placentas from infected ewes are highly contaminated and can spread infection to other ewes in the flock.

Toxoplasma gondii is the parasite that causes Toxoplasmosis, which is the second most common cause of infectious abortion in ewes, accounting for about a quarter of the cases.

Campylobacter fetus and Campylobacter jejuni are also common causes of abortion, particularly where sheep are managed intensively. This can lead to heavy contamination and unhygienic environments during late gestation. According to NADIS, the main source of infection is purchased carrier sheep.

For more information on abortion in ewes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention click here

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