A cross-sectional study of 329 farms in England to identify risk factors for ovine clinical mastitis

S. (Selin) Cooper, S. J. (Selene J.) Huntley, Ron E. Crump, Fiona Lovatt, Laura E. Green

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The aims of this study were to estimate the incidence rate of clinical mastitis (IRCM) and identify risk factors for clinical mastitis in suckler ewes to generate hypotheses for future study. A postal questionnaire was sent to 999 randomly selected English sheep farmers in 2010 to gather data on farmer reported IRCM and flock management practices for the calendar year 2009, of which 329 provided usable information. The mean IRCM per flock was 1.2/100 ewes/year (CI:1.10:1.35). The IRCM was 2.0, 0.9 and 1.3/100 ewes/year for flocks that lambed indoors, outdoors and a combination of both, respectively. Farmers ran a variety of managements before, during and after lambing that were not comparable within one model, therefore six mixed effects over-dispersed Poisson regression models were developed. Factors significantly associated with increased IRCM were increasing percentage of the flock with poor udder conformation, increasing mean number of lambs reared/ewe and when some or all ewes lambed in barns compared with outdoors (Model 1). For ewes housed in barns before lambing (Model 2), concrete, earth and other materials were associated with an increase in IRCM compared with hardcore floors (an aggregate of broken bricks and stones). For ewes in barns during lambing (Model 3), an increase in IRCM was associated with concrete compared with hardcore flooring and where bedding was stored covered outdoors or in a building compared with bedding stored outdoors uncovered. For ewes in barns after lambing (Model 4), increased IRCM was associated with earth compared with hardcore floors, and when fresh bedding was added once per week compared with at a frequency of ?2 days or twice/week. The IRCM was lower for flocks where some or all ewes remained in the same fields before, during and after lambing compared with flocks that did not (Model 5). Where ewes and lambs were turned outdoors after lambing (Model 6), the IRCM increased as the age of the oldest lambs at turnout increased. We conclude that the reported IRCM is low but highly variable and that the complexity of management of sheep around lambing limits the insight into generating hypotheses at flock level for risks for clinical mastitis across the whole industry. Whilst indoor production was generally associated with an increased IRCM, for ewes with large litter size indoor lambing was protective, we hypothesise that this is possibly because of better nutrition or reduced exposure to poor weather and factors associated with hygiene.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-98
Number of pages10
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Early online date14 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Ovine mastitis
  • Poisson regression
  • Incidence rate
  • Risk factor


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