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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72



In dealing with the question of diseases among sheep, I propose to treat the subject on the lines of prevention and not of cure. Absolute prevention is an impossibility, for there are certain insidious diseases which break out periodically in the best managed flocks which no care on the part of the owner can avert, and New Zealand is not exempt from such cases, but fortunately they are not common or widespread in their effects. One of such cases is the complaint which attacks pregnant ewes, usually two or three weeks before lambing time, and is sometimes very fatal. With us in Canterbury the complaint has occurred to my own knowledge at varying intervals and in varying localities many times during the last 20 years. One peculiarity of the disease, as far as my own observation goes, and as far as I have been able to learn from other persons, is that the fatal cases are almost invariably among ewes carrying twins. So markedly is this a feature attending the disease that there seems to be a close connection between twin gestation, and at any rate fatal consequences. But doubtless many animals are attacked without fatal consequences ensuing. My reason for this belief is that among the survivors of a flock where deaths from the disease have taken place, are many ewes that rapidly fall off in condition after lambing, with a rapid diminution, and then cessation of milk supply, to the great injury of the lambs. The lambs of such ewes quickly assume the appearance of being motherless. As far as I know no remedy has been found for the malady, and no preventive. It occurs at a time when curative treatment is most difficult to apply, on account of the advanced stage of pregnancy. It occurs in ewes of all ages and of all conditions. Fat ewes and lean ewes are alike subject to it. I have drawn attention to this complaint, because as yet it does not appear that any satisfactory preventive or cure has been found for it. No system of feeding or treatment within the compass of practical sheep farming, as it must be conducted in New Zealand, with due regard to our opportunities, and to the market value of sheep products has, I think, yet been discovered, and should it be discovered it will unquestionably be in the way of prevention.