Four ways to cut sheep lameness

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In the UK the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) is looking to reduce lameness to less than 2% by 2021.

Following the success of the 2017 Sheep lameness Roundtable there will be a return this year and the event will take place from the 15-17th November.

Here are four key challenges and suggestions for how the industry can achieve them to meet the 2021 target.

1. Improve Farmer & Vet Engagement

Challenges:

- Some practices do not have enough vets with special interest in sheep.

- Lack of profitability in sector to justify a vet call out. Can be more challenging for small farms.

Solutions:

Get Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) to facilitate farmer discussion talks.

Work with your vet to complete flock health plans and have an open conversation on the issues and challenges you and your farm faces.

2. Improve Lameness Identification

Challenges:

- Monitoring can be time consuming.

- Sometime farmers can become blind to lameness on their own farm.

Solutions:

- Mobility scoring groups and separation of lame sheep to a particular group will help reduce spread of infectious diseases. Asking other farmers, advisors or vets to help or assist from time to time could be an option to reduce the blindness.

- Individual identification is key, this can be with using your EID, tagging or having an individual mark will help tackle the issue.

3. Remove stigma & Foster open Dialogue

Challenges:

- Many farmers think if they have lame sheep, they are bad/poor farmers.

- Public perception of lame sheep.

Solutions:

- Being open with your vet and having a conversation may be the first step to improvement.

- Encourage farmers to admit they have to a problem and can be a huge step forward to improvement.

4. Adhere to the Five-Point Plan

Challenges:

1- Cull – This relies on having accurate treatment records and clearly identify ewes.

2- Quarantine- Keeping purchased replacement sheep away from the flock for a period of time is key.

3- Treat- Lack of facilities can hinder adequate quarantine. Lack of help to gather lame sheep.

4- Avoid- Difficult to avoid infection at lambing or when rotational grazing or grazing on the hill.

5- Vaccinate- human health risk to vaccinating with poor facilities and concern about using endoparasiticide injection if sheep have been previously vaccinated with Footvax.

Solutions:

- Encourage all farmers to adopt lameness protocols.

- Understand the risk persistently infected sheep have on the flock.

- Make recording/identification as simple and effective as possible.

- Have a quarantine policy suited to all the flock needs.

- Having good facilities for vaccinating and injecting is key but can be difficult for many farms. Farmers can use antibiotics on lame sheep. The aim is to prevent and improve health and welfare.

- Use footbaths correctly, always follow the manufactures instructions. Ensure sheep’s feet is clean before foot bathing.

- Ensure universities and colleges are teaching the correct lameness protocols and do not champion routine foot-trimming.