by PATRICIA GROTENHUIS
Small ruminant producers can send fetuses and placenta of stillborn lambs and kids to the University of Guelph’s Animal Health Lab for free evaluation, by either dropping them off at the Guelph or Kemptville labs, or at their veterinarian’s office.
“Our objective is to find what is causing small ruminant abortions,” says Dr. Murray Hazlett, vet pathologist at the AHL.
Placenta is crucial to the autopsy, providing approximately three out of four diagnoses, Hazlett explains.
The program began last June with funding to test 100 fetuses from the provincial government’s animal health strategic investment project, and has since been extended with funding for an additional 60 fetuses. Hazlett expects testing to continue until late summer 2010. By mid-April, 47 goat kids and 57 lambs were completely evaluated.
The most common causes of abortion found are Coxiella burnetii, Chlamydophila abortus, Campylobacter and Toxoplasma gondii.
Polymerase Chain Reaction tests were being used to identify cause of death. With PCR tests, if DNA or RNA of any level of a specific bacteria or virus is found, the test is positive, resulting in a large number of false positives.
Hazlett and his team are trying to determine through real time PCR tests, which show levels present, how much of each bacteria causes death.
These results will be used for more accurate diagnostic tests.
As evaluations on fetuses are completed, the producer’s veterinarian receives the results and discusses cause of death and prevention methods with the producer.
In one or two cases an unusual strain of Campylobacter was found necessitating additional testing. BF