I have written about testing for OPPV in sheep before. Toying with the idea. Last year, a buyer wanted all of his purchases tested, and was paying for it. So while the vet was here, I did mine too. I watched her carefully as she drew blood, hoping I could discover the secret to the quickness.
Before, I was using vacu-tubes to draw blood, which is the way we see doctors do it on us; but it is a struggle one-handed on an animal. If the animal moves and the needle comes out, the tube loses its vacuum, and you have to start over with a fresh tube. I saw that the vet chose to use syringes, draw the blood, and then empty it into the vacutainer. It’s an added step and expense, but it works much better.
I decided this year I’d master the practice. It’s too expensive to pay a vet to come out and do blood tests. Our local vet charges a $60 farm call, then hourly labor at $150/hour, then marks up the lab tests to boot. The tests are already expensive enough at WSU. A few months ago, I tested six ewes for pregnancy, and did pretty well drawing blood then. So a few weeks ago, I took the plunge and drew blood on all 32 adult breeding ewes here. A few of them gave me trouble and I had to stick them more than once, but for the most part, it went smoothly. I’ve got it down now. Straddle their shoulders, hold their heads in the crook of my left elbow and tilt to the left, use my right hand to pull the sample with a syringe. Done.
It’s nerve-wracking, this testing. You’d almost rather not know. Such a management headache to deal with positives if they crop up. And there is the stigma. It’s one thing to tell buyers, I don’t know if I have it, but I don’t think I do. It’s another to say I do know I have it. Though buyers should really prefer people who know one way or the other, and prefer proven clean flocks the most; the truth is, many of them will stigmatize someone with known positive status the most.
It’s expensive, even with my own labor for doing the work. I may only test the whole flock one more year, then switch to sampling. But some discriminating buyers are asking for it. And, it gives me peace of mind. Now, if I have a thin ewe, or one with a sore leg, or one who singled when I thought she should twin, I can reassure myself a little more, it’s probably not that. These three diseases, OPPV, CL and Johne’s, I find terrifying, like a shark under the water waiting to chew your arm off.