Thursday 24 February 2022

Booster jab (for the sheep)

The main task today was to give our Wiltshire Horn sheep their annual booster vaccination of Heptavac P. A common question if you are buying or selling sheep is "have they been heptavaced?" Heptavac P is a vaccine that provides protection against a range of clostridial bacterial diseases (typically fatal), the source of which is commonly found in pasture. It is administered by sub-cutaneous injection and is recommended to be given to breeding ewes 4-6 weeks prior to lambing. This means that new lambs will acquire some residual protection for a short period after birth. 

Lambs, from three weeks of age onwards, will require two injections weeks 4-6 apart - similar to the double vaccination against coronavirus most of us are now familiar with. Thereafter, if the lambs become part of the breeding stock they will fall into the routine of an annual booster.

Once the vaccine bottle is open it needs to be used within 10 hours. It can't be saved for later, for example, when the new lambs are due their first dose. Any surplus needs to be disposed of. A new bottle will have to be purchased, and again for the second dose. So that's three lots of Heptavac P all told each breeding season. And it is not cheap.

For sheep keepers like ourselves with small flocks the smallest available vaccine bottle contains much more than is generally needed. To help get round this we co-ordinate with our smallholder friends Mark and Anne who also have a small flock, in their case Shetland sheep. In this way we can share the vaccine and its cost and little goes to waste.

So first thing this morning Mark and Anne came over. They gave me a hand vaccinating my flock and later returned to their own smallholding to do theirs. I have an injection gun which makes administering the vaccine much easier than having to draw up individual syringes. This is a system that works very well for us.

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