Many sheep producers are failing to capitalise on the efficacy andvalue of proven vaccines and could significantly improve their controlof preventable diseases by following usage instructionscorrectly.

Anne Gibbs vaccinating sheepAn independent pilot study conducted by sheep vet Anne Gibbs from MacArthur, Barstow & Gibbs in Droitwich, Worcestershire has revealed a “worrying level of product misuse” amongst producers.

Despite many sheep farmers using a number of different vaccines to try and control clostridial problems, enzootic abortion, footrot and orf, there are still disease problems occurring because of unrealistic expectations and questionable vaccination procedures. The vaccines are good, but to work effectively it is vital that manufacturer usage guidelines are followed, she claimed.

Ms Gibbs interviewed over 80 sheep producers at a local livestock market representing flocks as small as 15 ewes up to 3,000 plus. Most producers had been farming for more than 30 years.

Ms Gibbs claims there were a number of areas where farmers were not using their vaccines properly, but common errors were:

  • Failing to complete recommended primary vaccination courses;
  • Vaccinating lambs too early;
  • Not storing products in the fridge; and
  • Re-using part-opened packs that had been on the farm for months.

Other issues included:

  • Failing to change needles frequently enough; and
  • Injecting sheep in the wrong place.

Commenting on the study information, Alasdair King from Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health said he found the results worrying. He said: “A tremendous amount of work goes into the development and testing of vaccines and it is important that producers follow the recommendations on the datasheet. Vaccines are an important investment for any farm and if not used correctly there is a high risk that immunity will not develop to a level sufficient to prevent disease occurring.”

As a result of the study, Ms Gibbs now offers her clients strict guidelines to optimise vaccine performance.

She said: “Apart from urging them to always read the datasheet carefully and follow product usage protocols correctly, I also tell them to change needles every 50 sheep or more frequently, if possible.

“Vaccines must also be stored properly and any open leftover vials should be thrown away at the end of the day. If in any doubt, always talk to your prescribing professional.”

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