9. Statutory and welfare considerations
There are non veterinary providers of scanning services throughout most states in Australia. In New South Wales, the diagnosis of pregnancy in sheep by external ultrasonic techniques is classified, under the Veterinary Practice Act 2003 No 87, as a Schedule1, Unrestricted act of veterinary science.
The relevant section of the Act reads; (j) diagnosing pregnancy in sheep by external ultrasonic techniques, subject to compliance with such conditions as may be prescribed by the regulations.
The words, "subject to compliance" should be taken seriously by service providers. As more sheep and wool producers switch from scanning to determine pregnancy status to scanning to determine twinning status, actual litter number and the age of a foetus, the occurrences of errors in diagnoses are likely to increase.
If service providers are to avoid regulation that requires them to be accredited, it is essential that standards are at the highest possible level. In the event that complaints are forthcoming from sheep and wool producers as a result of errors made by service providers, regulation to ensure that providers be accredited could be forthcoming.
Animal welfare implications
Failure to detect the presence of the second foetus in the uterus of a twin bearing ewe is the major error when scanning for twins. This problem has been discussed elsewhere in this website and it does give rise to an animal welfare issue. The problem is that a technique developed to help reduce losses among new born lambs, in fact, increases losses if it is not practiced accurately.
Twin bearing ewes that are correctly identified and managed can be expected to rear more lambs. However, it is not until the number of lambs saved from these ewes exceeds the numbers lost from the mis-identified twin bearing ewes that the scanning exercise is a net benefit.