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A new checklist-based audit tool from MSD Animal Health will help vets in practice engage more proactively and closely with GB sheep farmers. The highly practical consultation platform also enables development of an action plan to help shepherds address the key areas influencing flock health and productivity.

Developed by experienced, farm-based sheep vets in association with MSD Animal Health1, the new Flock Health Checklist helps practitioners assess performance across the three crucial time periods and two key management processes impacting on the success of sheep enterprises (see figure 1).

“We have developed this new performance checklist drawing on specialist sheep vet working experiences, clinical research studies, economic data and industry recommendations,” explains Dr Kat Baxter-Smith, veterinary adviser with MSD Animal Health.

“For example, the pre-breeding period is a great time to make sure your ewes and rams are as fit and healthy as possible. Good practice and preparation in this area will go a long way to minimising stress and problems during a busy lambing period.”

She adds that the late pregnancy and lambing period is also a vital time – and is the busiest few weeks on any sheep farm.       

“Having pre-agreed protocols for this important period in the sheep farming calendar – and keeping a record of issues that arise – will go a long way to making sure subsequent lambing seasons go as smoothly as possible.”

Growth, weaning and sale is the third crucial time period and the Flock Health Checklist incorporates an additional series of audit-based questions designed to pinpoint system stengths and weaknesses.

“It is vital that your lambs grow as quickly as possible – but not at the expense of the ewe. Looking after your breeding ewes during lactation and after weaning is just as important as monitoring the weight gain and performance of your lambs during this period of intense growth,” says Dr Baxter-Smith.

The Flock Health Checklist also enables a vet to ask a series of questions covering two key management processes: disease management and biosecurity; and how flock performance is currently monitored.

“Working through a series of 10 questions within each of the three crucial time periods and two key management processes – designed to tease out where a sheep unit is in terms of accepted best management practice – allows vet and farmer to quickly pinpoint any areas needing attention. What’s more, repeating the checklist every six or 12 months is a great way to keep things on track, allowing both parties to monitor performance against agreed targets,” says Dr Baxter-Smith.

“Similar types of checklist have been available to dairy youngstock rearing units and beef suckler herds for a couple of years now, with several vets reporting that these tools have proved integral to their productivity improvement work with farmer clients. Use of this checklist-based approach is also helping better implementation of preventative health practices such as vaccination. We hope this latest tool will help the GB sheep industry similarly.”             

Farmers interested in further information should contact their local veterinary practice.


Note to editors:
1. MSD Animal Health acknowledges the support of veterinary practitioners Giselle Brown (Galloway Veterinary Group, Kirkcudbright), JP Crilly (Larkmead Veterinary Group, Oxfordshire), John Hemingway (Shropshire Farm Vets), Jonathan Hobbs (North Park Veterinary Group, Devon) and Claire Jones (Dolgellau Vets, North Wales) in the development of the new Flock Health Performance Checklist.