AUSTRALIAN sheep producers could be missing an important opportunity to reduce the millions of dollars in productivity losses caused by arthritis each year, according to Pfizer business manager Tony Wetherall.
"While various other bacteria and viruses can also cause arthritis, the erysipelas bacteria is responsible for increasing numbers of outbreaks in all sheep-growing areas," he said.
"Yet lambs can be protected against erysipelas arthritis simply by vaccinating ewes with Eryvac(tm).
"The ewes then pass protective antibodies on to their newborn lambs in the first milk (colostrum) providing early protection when they require it most."
Mr Wetherall said outbreaks of erysipelas arthritis tended to occur after procedures like lamb marking, mulesing, shearing or dipping.
He said resulting productivity losses could be enormous, because of:
p Infected lambs become stunted and have reduced growth rates;
p The early culling of affected lambs reduces the number of quality animals available for replacement; and
p At the abattoirs, erysipelas arthritis can be one of the most common causes of carcass downgrade or condemnation.
He aid the only effective control measures were to maintain a very high standard of hygiene at lamb marking and to provide ewes with two initial doses of Eryvac(tm) vaccine followed by annual boosters 4 to 6 weeks before lambing.