Campylobacter is responsible for large scale abortions, with losses of 20-30% common but losses of 70% have been reported. Such large scale abortion storms are extremely devastating.
Recent evidence suggests infection with Campylobacter plays a role in reduced lamb survival. Numerous studies have shown an association between vaccination and increased lambing percentage. Even when no abortions have been seen, vaccination has been observed to increase lambing percentage by an average of 9%.
Most Campylobacter abortions in sheep are caused by the species Campylobacter fetus fetus. Testing indicates that around 50% of ewes are exposed to C. fetus fetus during their lifetime. A second species, C. jejuni can also cause abortion and can be significant, but is more sporadic.
Infections spread to other ewes by direct contact with aborted foetuses, afterbirth or vaginal discharges. These discharges occur for up to 6 weeks following abortion. Sheep can also be indirectly infected by eating pasture or drinking water contaminated with bacteria. The bacteria can survive in soil, water, pasture and hay for up to three weeks – longer in winter.
Campylobacter are present on most farms. It is therefore likely to be present on your farm, even though it may not have been diagnosed or you have not seen abortions. Abortion storms are obvious, however, in many cases the signs are not so clear cut. Losses are often scattered, ongoing and not readily detected. Either way, the impact on your lamb productivity will be significant.
Greater than expected differences between scanning and tailing percentages can be an indication of Campylobacter infection, even if there is no obvious history of the disease on your farm.
A sensitiser and booster vaccination of Campyvax4® in all replacement and new breeding ewes is recommended. An annual booster is also recommended. Vaccination timing can fit normal farming practice. Both doses are best if given prior to mating, or the sensitiser before and the booster at the start of mating.
Campyvax4 provides your ewes protection against all C. fetus fetus strains and is the only vaccine that includes C. jejuni . Vaccination with Campyvax4 will protect against Campylobacter abortion storms, and any unseen Campylobacter losses between scanning and tailing.