19 July 2002

GIVE LAMENESS THE BOOT

By Jonathan Long

AN ESTIMATED one in every 10 sheep is lame at any one time, making lameness one of the most economically damaging conditions of the sheep industry, says the RSPCA.

Eliminating lameness is the aim of a new RSPCA video, says Julia Wrathall, deputy head of the RSPCAs farm animal department.

The video, Stamping out Lameness, designed to assist producers in tackling lameness, features practical advice on how to combat problems which cause lameness, according to the RSPCA.

"Major causes of lameness are foot-rot and scald. These two conditions account for up to 85% of lameness," says Dr Wrathall.

Flockmasters are urged to adopt a zero tolerance policy to both of these conditions. While the RSPCA recommends no new treatments, it suggests producers should invest time and money in eradicating scald and foot-rot, as they can have severe impact on flock performance.

Other causes of lameness featured include contagious ovine digital dermatitis, granuloma, fibroma, toe abscesses, shelly hoof, laminitis and foot-and-mouth disease.

Treatments proposed by the RSPCA include foot trimming, foot-bathing, antibiotics and vaccines. Regardless of which treatment is chosen, the RSPCA says there are key rules which should be followed. Lameness should be viewed as a flock problem; treating only affected animals can be counter-productive, as unaffected stock can harbour disease and may be resistant carriers.

"The RSPCA recognised a gap in the transfer of knowledge surrounding lameness and by producing this video we aim to present information in an easy to use format. We set out to supply information to those who regularly see the problem – producers. Although we have regularly funded lameness research, we felt this was a better way of tackling the problem," says Dr Wrathall.

While denying that the video is in response to any particular factor, Dr Wrathall suggests there is a reluctance to accept lameness as a major issue on some farms.

The video will be launched at Sheep 2002 and costs £6. &#42