Abnormalities of the reproductive tract of female sheep were studied by examining 9970 reproductive tracts from cull ewes and 23,536 tracts from nulliparous sheep (prime lambs) over a period of 12 months in abattoirs in south-west England. Overall, 3.37 per cent of the tracts were pregnant (8.11 per cent of cull ewes, and 1.36 per cent of nulliparous sheep), with a peak incidence between September and December. A total of 655 ewes (6.57 per cent) and 459 nulliparous sheep (1.95 per cent) had acquired abnormalities of the reproductive tract. Within these totals, abnormalities of the ovaries accounted for 3.51 per cent (for the ewes) and 10.68 per cent (for the nulliparous sheep) of all the abnormalities, and abnormalities of the ovarian bursa and uterine tube accounted for 42.1 per cent (for the ewes) and 5.23 per cent (for the nulliparous sheep). In addition, uterine lesions (hydrometra and metritis) accounted for 9.92 per cent (for the ewes) and 13.51 per cent (for the nulliparous sheep); lesions of the cervix and vagina (total of 1.44 per cent) and Cysticercus tenuicollis cysts associated with the reproductive tract (total of 3.05 per cent) were less common. Among the ewes the most common ovarian lesions were ovulation tags, and follicular cysts were the most common in nulliparous animals. Lesions such as bursitis, parametritis and abscesses of the reproductive tract were much more common in cull ewes than in nulliparous sheep, probably having arisen from peripartum infections. Hydrosalpinx and hydrometra, in which the intraluminal fluid was clear, were present at relatively high incidence in nulliparous animals, but not in cull ewes. The proportion of tracts containing macerated fetal remnants (2.14 per cent of all abnormalities in cull ewes) was lower than expected. It was considered that the functional significance of many of the lesions, such as ovulation tags and C tenuicollis cysts, was likely to be low, although in some cases of the latter calcification of the cyst had occluded the uterine tubes. Other lesions, notably hydrosalpinx, bursitis and metritis were likely to have made the affected animals sterile. The acquired abnormalities were therefore more significant in terms of individual animal infertility than as a major cause of infertility in flocks.
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