15 November 1996

Improved management

can stamp out foot rot

Feeding ewes straw and eradicating foot rot were two of the topics covered at last weeks NSA conference in north Wales. Robert Davies reports

VACCINATION coupled with better management could help to eradicate foot rot in flocks.

So said veterinary surgeon John Madley, vaccine technical manager of Willows Francis Veterinary speaking at last weeks National Sheep Association conference in north Wales.

A farmer who said foot rot was a fact of life was wrong; vaccination could help eradicate the problem in closed flocks and control it where sheep were being bought in according to Mr Madley.

The company claims that two doses of vaccine will cut the number of lame sheep by 95%. Combining vaccination with other treatments like antibiotics, foot paring, proper use of foot baths, culling chronic cases and better pasture management meant eradication was possible, he said.

Many farmers negated the effect of using formaldehyde or zinc sulphate baths by allowing organic matter to enter the bath, not maintaining the correct chemical concentration, or not standing sheep in the solution for long enough.

Flockmasters also failed to exploit the fact that the bacterium responsible – Dichelobacter nodosus – was not present on pasture that had not carried sheep for 10 days, and better pasture management would help to eradicate foot rot.

But lameness did not always indicate a foot rot problem, he said, and it was important to ascertain the true cause. Lame sheep were likely to be less profitable as it affected conception and lamb growth rates. There were also examples of it being linked to mastitis in ewes grazing on their knees, and increased incidence of joint ill, twin lamb disease and flystrike, he said.

"Unhealthy feet can have many knock-on effects," Mr Madely said. "The key to healthy feet is to draw up an individual farm programme with your vet, and ensure you include all sheep in the treatment programme."

Vaccination and better management could eradicate foot rot according to John Madley.