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Mysterious Sheep Death Investigated

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Mysterious Sheep Death Investigated

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Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Sheep, primarily ewes and their lambs, have died in great numbers this past lambing-season. The cause has yet to be determined, and farms all around Iceland appear to be affected.

“We thought for a while that this could be caused by poor quality hay. But the situation has grown so serious that we must investigate whether other factors are at play,” said Þórarinn Ingi Pétursson, chair of the National Association of Sheep Farmers, to Vísir.

“As an example of how serious this is, I know of a farm where over 20 percent of the stock is dead,” Þórarinn added. “To lose ewes that have yet to bear their lambs is a great loss.”

“This is a sorry state of affairs and many farmers around the country have been terribly affected by it,” said Gísli Sverrir Halldórsson, veterinarian in Búðardalur, West Iceland. “I’ve never seen a situation this bad. The ewes aren’t milking after giving birth and so the lambs are not growing, and even dying.”

Bjarni Hermannsson, farmer at nearby Leiðólfstaðir in Laxárdalur, reported losing close to 40 sheep this past winter, as well as 60 lambs during the lambing season.

“I don’t know why this is happening. I have, for example, often had worse hey. And even though we’ve given the sheep vitamins and feed enhancer it hasn’t helped. But there is clearly some problem with the feed in my opinion,” said Bjarni.

The sheep farmer’s association, together with veterinarian Margrét Katrín Guðnadóttir, will begin an investigation into the deaths today. Blood tests will be carried out on groups of both affected and unaffected sheep. “We are standing in front of a haystack and want to find the needle,” said Margrét of the situation.

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