Background: Unfortunately, illthrift in ewes is a problem that vets are faced with very often. Illthrift represents both a health and a welfare concern – under-conditioned sheep do not receive enough food (which is against the freedom from hunger and thirst under the Animal Welfare Act 2006), and/or are affected by disease (which is against the freedom from pain, injury and disease under the Animal Welfare Act 2006). Illthrift in ewes also represents a significant barrier to profitability – to be profitable, a flock must be optimising the efficiency of conversion of the primary feeding source into marketable products (ie, meat, milk or wool). Therefore, it is key that all of these implications of illthrift are addressed as soon as possible to achieve the best outcome for the animals and the farmers.
Aim of the article: This article provides an overview on the importance of illthrift in flock profitability, how to recognise an illthrift problem, what the main causes of illthrift are, and how to intervene for a successful outcome for the clients, their animals and the vet. The emphasis of this article will be on flock medicine; the principles of investigations and causes of disease will vary in individual animals. Subsequently, a modified list of differentials should be considered on a case-by-case basis.