Eye conditions can become a problem when bringing ewes inside to lamb, with ewes’ heads coming into much closer contact than at any other time.
Kirsten Williams, beef and sheep consultant at SAC Consulting says there are three main eye conditions in ewes, all of which can be associated with harsh winter weather and housing.
She says eye conditions are particularly problematic for ewes in late pregnancy, and can lead to blindness.
The most common condition is Infectious Keratoconjunctivitis, more commonly known as ’pink eye’. This is often related to bad weather such as driving snow or high winds but also dust which may be in hay.
It is a contagious condition, caused by one of two species, either Chlamydia Psittaci or Mycoplasma Conjunctivae.
Mrs Williams says: “It can be identified as tear stains on the face, cloudy eyes, a dislike to bright lights and the eye can become inflamed and pink, depending on the length of infection. There are often carrier animals within flocks which transmit the organisms to other sheep in the flock.”
Anterior Uveitis, also known as ‘silage eye’, is a condition often linked to feeding big bale silage to sheep caused by a conjunctival infection from Listeria Monocytogenes and can be displayed as cloudy eyes.
Mrs Williams says: “To limit the risk of the condition, freshly opened big bale silage should be offered to the animals and silage should not be out of its wrap for more than three days. The condition is more common when sheep are pushing their heads into the bale so unrolling bales along a feed barrier is likely to reduce the risk of disease compared to using a round feeder.”
The third condition Mrs Williams highlights is Periorbital Eczema which occurs when the skin around the eye is damaged allowing entry of Staphylococcus aureus and can often occur when there is not adequate room at troughs or ring feeders. It results in swollen eyes and blocked vision due to large scabby lesions forming around the eyes.