New Zealand: Preventing pneumonia in lambs
The most common form of pneumonia is Chronic Non-Progressive (CNP) Pneumonia which can be caused by bacteria, mycobacteria and viruses. Symptoms are often sub-clinical, but affected sheep will commonly have trouble breathing, cough and pant following exercise. Pneumonia is ubiquitous and it has been estimated that on average, 24 percent of lambs in any flock will be affected by this production-limiting disease.
Sheep with pneumonia are more likely to develop pleurisy where the lungs stick to the chest wall and when this happens, affected carcasses are downgraded or condemned at processing plants.
Studies have shown that pneumonia can have a significant impact on lamb growth rates. Where more than 20 per cent of the lung surface area is affected, growth rates are halved. There appears to be no effect on weight gain where less than five percent of the lung is affected.
A number of on-farm factors are thought to be linked to pneumonia in lambs. These include shearing at weaning, slaughtering late in the season, running in a larger flock and having strong wool.
Other factors that are considered a risk include high temperatures and humidity, crowding, stress, excessive exercise, poor ventilation, low immunity and high parasite burdens.
A healthy, well-fed animal under minimal stress is less likely to develop the disease but there are other preventative steps farmers can take the minimise the risk of pneumonia.
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