Risk factors and impacts of clinical and subclinical mastitis in commercial meat-producing sheep flocks in Quebec, Canada

Julie Arsenault, Pascal Dubreuil, Robert Higgins, Denise Bélanger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


We conducted a prospective observational study on clinical and subclinical mastitis in 30 commercial meat-producing sheep flocks from 2 regions of the province of Quebec, Canada. A total of 2792 ewes selected in late gestation were followed from lambing to weaning of lambs. The incidence of clinical mastitis for the total lactation period (average of 58 days) ranged among flocks from 0 to 6.6%, with a median of 1.2%. The most frequently isolated bacteria from the cases of clinical mastitis, in pure or mixed culture, were Mannheimia haemolytica (26%), Staphylococcus aureus (23%), and coagulase-negative staphylococci (17%). Incidence of clinical mastitis was higher in ewes that gave birth to 3 or more lambs and from the Estrie region, and was associated with an increase in ewe mortality, an increase in lamb mortality at the litter level, and a decrease in lamb's weaning weight for lambs born in multiple litter size or from ewes ≥4 years old. Among 354 selected ewes with clinically normal udder at the end of lactation, 28.8% had potentially pathogenic bacteria isolated from milk. The most prevalent bacteria were S. aureus (9.3%) and coagulase-negative staphylococci (9.3%). The risk of having a positive culture in at least one half was different between the two regions. Prevalence of ewes (n = 261) with California Mastitis Test (CMT) positive result in at least one half was 24.1 and 14.9% using a cut-off of ≥1+ and ≥2+, respectively. Prevalence of culture-positive udder halves was 11.7% for CMT-negative compared with 53.6% for CMT 3+ halves. CMT status was positively associated with the isolation of coagulase-negative staphylococci, M. haemolytica, S. aureus, and various Streptococcus species, but not with other isolated bacteria. Additionally, prevalence of CMT-positive halves was higher in ewes from the Estrie region, aged of ≥4 years versus 1 year, having clinical mastitis previously detected in the lactation and/or with low body condition score. Lamb weaning weight was associated with CMT status of ewes, while weaning weight was not associated with milk culture results. More research is needed to understand the dynamic of milk SCC and IMI in ewes from meat-producing flocks, its economical impact and best ways to control it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-393
Number of pages21
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Nov 17 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Incidence
  • Mastitis
  • Mortality
  • Risk factors
  • Sheep
  • Weaning weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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