Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae is a globally distributed pathogen that has been associated with pneumonia in both domestic and wild Caprinae. It is closely related to M. hyopneumoniae, a respiratory pathogen of swine that is associated with decreased growth rates of pigs as well as clinical respiratory disease. In order to assess the effects of M. ovipneumoniae on lamb performance, we generated a cohort of lambs free of M. ovipneumoniae by segregation of test negative ewes after lambing, then compared the growth and carcass quality traits of M. ovipneumoniae-free and -colonized lambs from weaning to harvest. Some signs of respiratory disease were observed during the feeding trial in both lamb groups, but the M. ovipneumoniae-exposed group included more affected lambs and higher average disease scores. At harvest, lungs of lambs in both groups showed few grossly visible lesions, although the M. ovipneumoniae-exposed group did exhibit increased microscopic lung lesions (P<0.05). In addition, M. ovipneumoniae exposed lambs produced lower average daily gains (P<0.05), and lower yield grade carcasses (P<0.05) compared to those of non-exposed lambs. The results demonstrated the feasibility of test and segregation for elimination of M. ovipneumoniae from groups of sheep and suggested that this pathogen may impair lamb growth and productivity even in the absence of overt respiratory disease.
Besser, T. E., Levy, J., Ackerman, M., Nelson, D., Manlove, K., Potter, K. A., … Benson, M. (2019). A pilot study of the effects of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae exposure on domestic lamb growth and performance. PLoS ONE, 14(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207420