Disease causes producer to start fresh
A highlight of the 77th Annual South Dakota Sheep Growers Convention was a tour of the Tom and Marilyn Schwebach farm, Egan, S.D., where growers saw a real-life example of how ovine progressive pneumonia can affect an operation. The disease causes gradual weight loss, a reduction in milk production and eventually premature death. Because it develops slowly, ewes sometimes don’t show significant visible symptoms until they are 2 years old.
In 1994, the Schwebachs were faced with a decision to sell their entire flock of sheep and start over after they realized the damages OPP was causing. Due to the effects of OPP, Tom noted that they were raising 150 to 250 bottle lambs every year. As a result, they decided to sell their entire flock and start building a completely OPP-negative herd.
“We sold everything off,” Schwebach explained. “We were convinced OPP was the problem. We tested the ewes that we brought in and had 30 positives. We decided to keep the positives in a separate flock. Out of that flock, 20 of the 30 positive ewes had their lambs removed and bottle-fed. That is when we decided we wouldn’t keep any positives.”
Today, Schwebach takes measures to be sure no OPP-positive rams are brought into the flock. In addition, he tests his entire flock for OPP every five years.
“If everybody knew what the problem was, there would be a premium for OPP-free animals. Unless you have a major shipwreck, you won’t understand its impact. We had a major shipwreck,” Schwebach said.
Despite the challenges, the work they did in keeping OPP out of their herd is worth it.
“Now it is not bad, lambing,” Schwebach said. “We actually kind of enjoy it.”
Johnson wrote this for South Dakota State University Extension.
Photo: Chelsey Johnson
This article published in the November, 2014 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.