The lame sheep, every farm has them and they can be frustratingly difficult to manage taking time, effort, and medicines. It is estimated that 3 million sheep are lame in the UK at any one time so as an industry we spend a lot of time, effort and resources treating lame sheep.
As someone growing up in Wales and living with sheep at home, I have spent a lot of time treating, trimming and turning over sheep for feet, but can we reach the point of not turning over sheep? The short answer is yes, flocks can achieve lameness levels less than 2% by tackling lameness from 5 key areas.
Ewes that have two cases of severe lameness or are repeat offenders should be culled as soon as they are recovered to reduce the infection levels on farm. To help identify repeat offenders’ clear identification or good records are needed. An easy way to identify repeat offenders is by putting cable ties through EID tags when treating lame sheep, this way you have a permanent visual way to identify them in the future.
Lame sheep should be treated promptly and isolated from the rest of the flock. Ideally create a ‘lame group’ in a field or shed with easy handling facilities (try to avoid fields with a footpath through them).
Treatment of lame sheep with long-acting amoxicillin (Trymox LA or Betamox LA) every other day until the foot is healed is advised with 78% cases cured after a single injection. Difficult chronic cases should be assessed by a vet with tilmicosin (Micotil) administration helpful in some cases.
Lameness can spread at handling and gathering so ensure pens are clean and dry before using. Hydrated lime spread in pens, gateways and around feed troughs can help reduce disease spread between sheep.
Trimming should be avoided in lame sheep with infected feet as the bacteria can survive on foot shears. Ideally don’t trim sheep, but if you are trimming hot water and fairy liquid will kill the bugs so wash the shears in a bucket between feet.
Footvax (MSD) is a licensed vaccine for the treatment and reduction of footrot cases in flocks. The vaccine provides protection against Dichelobacter nodosus which causes both scald and footrot and reduces the risk of new CODD infections by 32%. Vaccination can be carried out by either of the following strategies:
- Primary course with two vaccines administered 4-6 weeks apart followed by a yearly booster
- A single vaccination before the high-risk period on farm, for example 6 monthly vaccination to fit with pre-tupping and scanning works well for most flocks
Footvax should be administered with caution due to the risks associated with self-injection, our tech team are happy to come on farm to help with administration.
Most cases of CODD arrived on farm through purchased stock – usually a ram. Incoming animals should be turned over and their feet inspected to identify any small early lesions that are not yet causing lameness and treated appropriately. Footbathing all incoming stock with formalin or zinc sulphate can help to reduce the risk of spread provided sheep are stood onto dry hard standing for an hour after footbathing.
The best time to start the five point plan is post-weaning giving you plenty of time to get on top of lameness pre-tupping and to help manage lameness over winter reducing the risk of spread to lambs in the spring.