Udder Health in Ewes: Mastitis, Udder Scores, and Management

Isabel Richards, Veterinary Science – South Africa and owner/operator of Gibraltar Farm
(Previously published with the Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins (EAPK): February 28, 2022)

(Image Source: Alba et al., 2019)

Ewes only have two teats and hopefully raise at least twin lambs, so maintaining healthy udders and culling ewes with udder problems is important to minimize lamb losses and bottle lambs while ensuring optimal growth of lambs on your farm. Mastitis leads to lower weaning weights in lambs of affected dams, takes time and money for treatment, as well as slowing down genetic progress due to forced culling of ewes. Rates of mastitis are variable across different farms. It is important to keep track of the percentage of ewes that get mastitis each year or are culled for lumpy udders or poor milk production. You can then intervene as soon as you start seeing an increase in cases, and can track the success of interventions if you do have an issue with mastitis on your farm. Management as well as genetic selection (udder conformation) can also be used to improve udder health in your flock.

Mastitis is an infection/inflammation of the udder and can be either clinical (you see abnormal milk, swollen udder, sick ewe) or subclinical (milk and ewe look normal but you can culture bacteria from milk, there are white blood cells in the milk and lambs just do not grow as well). If you are seeing a lot of mastitis on your farm or if you are starting to see increased rates, it is important to culture milk from affected ewes so you can get a better idea of how to Continue reading

Dairy Sheep in the United States

Dairy sheep. Although not common in the United States, there is an opportunity for growth – both for the genetics of these sheep and the products that they make. Dairy influenced sheep breeds work well in commercial production systems in addition to the gourmet products that can be derived from their milk. For more details on how these sheep can be used in your operation, be sure to watch this webinar supported by the Let’s Grow Program with the American Sheep Industry.