Lame sheep are a costly presence in any flock due to the costs of treatment, the costs of control and most significantly due to the adverse effects of lameness on productivity, fertility and longevity.
These costs will reduce the output per ewe, as well as the output per hectare in a flock.
In order to decide on the control measures to take it is important to first establish the prevalence of lameness in a flock.
If more than 5% of the flock is lame then a control plan is needed. The most common causes of sheep lameness include scald and foot rot.
Control measures that a flock should undertake can be summarised in a Five Point Plan.
•Number 1 is Treatment - It is essential that all lame sheep are caught; the cause of the lameness is established and then treated appropriately.
A good time to do this is after weaning. Treatment may include the use of injectable antibiotics or footbaths.
Your veterinary practitioner is best placed to advise you on the best treatments.
•Number 2 is to Avoid spread – Diseases such as foot rot and Contagious Ovine Digital Dermatitis or CODD are infectious and will spread between sheep at high traffic areas.
Footbaths can be helpful to reduce the spread of disease when sheep have been gathered. It is important that the sheep’s feet are reasonably clean before foot bathing.
Ensure that the footbath is mixed to the correct concentration, that you allow the appropriate amount of contact time recommended and that the sheep have a dry concrete area to stand on for about an hour or so after the footbath so that the feet will dry.
•Number 3 is to Vaccinate – It is possible to vaccinate in order to prevent foot rot with Footvax. The vaccine can be used to reduce the overall levels of foot rot in a flock.
For correct advice on how to use Footvax it is important to speak to your veterinary practitioner.
•Number 4 is to Cull – It is recommended that persistent offenders, that is sheep that are recurrently lame and don’t respond to treatment, should be culled. For this it is important to keep accurate records so that the same ewes are not retreated on multiple occasions.
•Finally number 5 is to Quarantine - All incoming sheep should be quarantined to avoid the introduction of a different and perhaps more virulent strain of foot rot.
During quarantine their feet should be examined and they should be run through a footbath. Lame sheep should never, ever be added to the flock.