Recent studies indicate that abortion is occurring at a higher rate amongst hinds in some herds than others, and may even be a significant cause of overall wastage. If farmers suspect they have a problem, it is important to monitor the issue closely.
How can I look for abortions?
It is very difficult to find aborted foetuses in the paddock. Sometimes dead foetuses are simply resorbed by the hind. On other occasions when they are expelled they are eaten by scavengers (e.g. hawks) or even the hinds themselves. If you suspect that hinds in your herd (particularly first-calver hinds) are aborting their pregnancies, the best option is to double scan the herd to identify missing pregnancies. Always consult your vet about possible options to test aborting hinds for diseases that may have caused foetal death.
The double scanning method
This method relies on two ultrasound scans of all the hinds in the herd….the first scan in early pregnancy (late May to mid June) and the second scan in late pregnancy (September to mid October). Pregnancies detected at the first scan that are missing at the second scan are clearly indicative of foetal wastage.
What should I do next?
If you identify a problem, or even just suspect a problem, consult with your vet. It may be possible to identify the cause of foetal wastage and correct the problem in subsequent years. Blood sampling of aborting hinds may provide antibody evidence of disease. However, the best incriminating evidence will generally come from aborted foetal tissues…if the scanner operator identifies a dead foetus still inside the hind, it may pay big dividends to euthanize the hind and send foetal tissues to the lab for analysis….again, consult your vet about doing so.
Show me the science
Asher, G.W., Wilson, P.R. (2011) Reproductive productivity of farmed red deer: a review. Proceedings of a Deer Course for Veterinarians. Deer Branch NZVA 28: 23-29.