It’s that time of year again! It is time to check ram soundness in plenty of time for mating. The main reason we palpate Rams is to check for Brucella Ovis, a sexually transmitted disease of sheep characterized by testicular lesions in rams and abortion in ewes.
The testicular changes start with swelling of the ‘epididymis’, the coiled tube that stores mature sperm; followed by shrinking of the testicle. Although not all rams with Brucellosis will show testicular changes, palpation of the testicles seems to give us a good starting point for diagnosis. Annual palpations, with blood testing of ‘suspicious’ rams does helps to control the spread of Brucellosis.
About 3% of New Zealand flocks are infected, and we do still see outbreaks. The ewes’ clear infection from one year to the next, so it is the rams that are responsible for the spread of disease and is most commonly introduced by an infected bought-in ram or from poor biosecurity and a ram straying. The organism can enter through any mucous membrane and only exists as an obligatory pathogen- meaning it is only found in sheep tissues.
There is no treatment or vaccine available, so detection of infected rams and culling is the only effective means of control.
Ram palpations and blood testing is often done at this time of year, so as to leave plenty of time to re-test or restock if necessary. Give us a call at the clinic to book your mob in.