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Assessing Sheep for Contagious
Epididymitis During Breeding Season

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dr. Hallie Hasel

Included in the mission of the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) is the “protection of the livestock interests of the state from disease by implementing board rules and regulations.” 

As we approach sheep breeding season, performing breeding soundness exams on all rams is highly recommended. Part of the breeding soundness exam should include an assessment of the general health status of the animal, including testing for Brucella ovis, also known as Contagious Epididymitis.

Brucella ovis is a bacterium which circulates in sheep and causes epididymitis and reduced fertility. 

Rams may become persistently infected, although ewes may have occasional abortions and perinatal mortality when exposed. Rams may shed the bacteria in semen for two to four years or longer and in urine. 

The bacteria may enter the body through the prepuce, ocular, oral, nasal and rectal tissues. Clinical signs in rams may include an enlarged scrotum, pain and abnormal lumps within the scrotal region. Rams positive for the disease should be euthanized or sent to slaughter. 

WLSB has rules and regulations for a Brucella ovis flock certification program. The flock will be certified free for one year when all test-eligible rams have passed two consecutive blood tests 45 to 120 days apart. 

WLSB is currently in the process of updating livestock rules and regulations, including potential testing requirements for Brucella ovis on common grazing allotments. All rules will be posted for public comment at a later date to be announced. 

Further information about the Brucella ovis certification program and rules pertaining to the disease within Wyoming may be found by visiting, e-mailing or by calling the WLSB office in Cheyenne at 307-777-7515. We welcome further discussion about Brucella ovis or other livestock related issues anytime via the contact options listed above.

Dr. Hallie Hasel is the Wyoming state veterinarian.

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    Epididymitis During Breeding Season
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