Sheep lameness is a substantial drain on farm profitability and is estimated to cost the UK sheep industry £24m/year.
Lameness does not only mean higher vet bills, but can also affect ewe fertility, resulting in lower scanning percentages. Lamb survival is lower and growth rates in those lambs that do survive are impaired due to the lower milk production of lame ewes. It all adds up to a substantial cost for each individual farmer.
To help farmers tackle lameness, Farmers Weekly, in association with MSD, has launched a new online module, headed by expert Ruth Clements.
The five-point plan
- Culling – Adopt a “two or three strikes and you’re out” rule to animals
- Quarantine – Prevent the introduction of different strains of infectious lameness
- Prompt treatment – This is needed to prevent problems from escalating
- Vaccination – To help build immunity
- Avoid – Measures to avoid spread of infection around the farm
Lameness is a significant issue on many farms, with some struggling with levels of more than 10%,” she explains.
“By embracing the strategy [five-point plan], the UK sheep industry now has the ability to meet government targets to reduce lameness prevalence to 5% or less by March 2016,” she says.
The five-point plan, developed by FAI Farms, was designed to tackle infectious disease by helping reduce disease challenges, while at the same time building resilience and establishing immunity in the flock.
“By achieving this, farms are building a ‘safety buffer’, which means in time of challenge, such as poor weather, the flock is less likely to succumb to disease.”
She highlights that farmers committing to all parts of the five-point plan quickly witness significant drops in lameness. “For example, farms with 10% lameness have reported levels of under 2% after the first year.
“To get on top of lameness, it is essential to adhere to all parts of the plan, otherwise it will be harder to achieve control,” she concludes.