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Post Mortem examination and Pathology of Cattle and Sheep


With the closure in 2014 of all but 6 VI centres in England, access to a diagnostic post mortem examination (PME) service by farmers and practitioners has been reduced in many areas. This has led in some cases to practitioners having to perform post mortem examinations in the field, in order to diagnose causes of death/ disease. There is therefore a need for these activities to be underpinned by a sound knowledge base in different aspects of post mortem examination of livestock.

Figure 7 Fibrino-purulent Pleurisy in a case of septicaemia pasteurellosis (Mannheimia haemolytica)Overall aims; 

  • For practitioners to gain experience in systematic PME of cattle and sheep. A standard PME approach means that all relevant organ systems are evaluated in every case, so that lesions are not missed.
  • Demonstration of lesions associated with common causes of mortality/ morbidity in cattle and sheep, using fresh carcases, fixed material and images of lesions.
  • Improved knowledge of when it is necessary/ advisable to collect samples to confirm suspected diagnoses. Improved knowledge of which samples to collect for commonly encountered diseases, handling and appropriate dispatch of such samples to the laboratory. Cost effectiveness of such testing, and the likelihood that each test will make a material difference to the outcome or intervention chosen.

    lamb post mortem 1

  • Improved understanding of disease pathogenesis of common diseases for which PME is a major part of the diagnostic process.  Knowledge of pathogenesis is not only rewarding and interesting in itself; it complements knowledge of sample selection by explaining the reasons why samples are selected, and how lesions develop. It also greatly improves the likelihood that interventions made to mitigate disease going forward, will be successful. Reference to important peer-reviewed literature and the papers by which this knowledge has been acquired (so that they can be referred to in future) Knowledge of the prevalence of common production-limiting diseases in cattle and sheep as measured by the various reporting systems in place. Discussion of possible biases, advantages and disadvantages of each of these sources, how they have been impacted by previous changes and how they may evolve in future.
  • Appreciation of the livestock endemic disease surveillance landscape and the parts played by the various actors within it; VI centres, private laboratories, practitioners, fallen stock collection centres.