A difficult winter, shearing in cold weather and poor-quality food may explain the extensive death of sheep in Iceland last winter and spring. Veterinarian Sigurður Sigurðsson, who has investigated the sheep deaths, stated that many factors had contributed to the situation.
After performing autopsies on many of the dead sheep, Sigurður has concluded that their deaths weren’t caused by a contagious disease, as he said on Rás 1 radio program Samfélagið yesterday.
Sigurður also finds it unlikely that the sheep died due to poisoning from toxic gases from the eruption in Holuhraun, which came to an end in February, because most of the dead sheep were from regions far away from the eruption site.
Sigurður explained that the sheep which died lost weight in spite of eating well. Most of them were carrying lambs, which got most of the nutrition. After the lambs were born, the ewes had enough milk to begin with, but then they started losing weight and died.
He said there are many reasons for this development. “In many cases it was bad-quality hay from last year. The cold last spring and winter. And the shearing. Skinny animals were being sheared. An animal which has been sheared is under increased strain. Immediately afterwards, it has to eat one third more food than usual and if it isn’t good enough this can happen.”