26 January 1996

Scratching lambs against orf neednt be an irksome task

PREVENTATIVE treatment against orf can be a fiddly business for both shepherd and lamb. The "scratch" method of breaking the skin with the special two-pronged needle impregnated with the vaccine is now a familiar management task in many flocks. But it has to be undertaken with care.

Early "scratching" of lambs – as young as two-days-old – adds another job to the list at a hectic time in the lambing shed. Turning a wriggling lamb on its back to achieve an effective "scratch" on the skin between the top of the leg and the chest can also be awkward. Staff are often tired and lambs are far from co-operative. The risk of the operator accidentally coming into contact with the vaccine is high.

If the worst does happen and the tell-tale blister appears on the hand theres a well-tried cure that is worth considering. Its a homeopathic treatment of Thuja Occidentalis. Its available in tablet form and has been used successfully in the treatment of orf in humans for many years.

Any homeopathic chemist should be able to dispense the treatment. If you have any problems the Herefordshire-based homeopathic chemists Chave and Jackson, 6-7 Broad Street, Hereford (01432-272152) are worth contacting.

Jeremy Hunt

Orf vaccine and scratcher for the lambs and Thuja Occidentalis tablets for the shepherds.