22 October 1999

Whole-flock approach to tackle rot

TRIMMING the feet of sheep might hinder rather than help in the fight against foot-rot.

A whole-flock approach rather than an individual animal one is needed to control the condition, believes vet Rose Grogono.

"Foot trimming treats individual animals. We have been doing it for years and it does not seem to be working. In Australia, shepherds do not trim feet at all.

"Currently, foot-rot control in most British flocks is completely based on foot trimming. Not all shepherds trim well and some trim badly, which can do more harm than good.

"Often the same shears are used to trim the whole flock, without disinifecting between animals, which spreads foot-rot. Where producers are uncertain about foot-trimming they should seek vet advice."

Reducing foot trimming will also save time, says Dr Grogono. "Foot trimming is a time-consuming job. But where sheep are kept on soft, wet ground routine trimming is necessary."

Trimming not enough

But relying on trimming will not eradicate foot-rot, warns Dr Grogono. "It is usually the same few ewes that get foot-rot all the time. But because they have two lambs every year, producers keep them and they infect others in the flock."

Consider culling sheep that do not respond to two injections of long acting antibiotic, she says. "It is worth culling these few animals, usually older sheep with deep- seated infections, to protect the rest of the flock."

Vaccination may provide a means of getting on top of the disease, believes Dr Grogono. "Vaccinating for several years can really sort a foot-rot problem out, but it is essential to follow instructions carefully. Immunity lasts three to four months, so consider vaccinating before a period of risk such as housing."

A new research project, starting in December and run by Dr Grogono will monitor the effectiveness of different foot-rot treatments on 20 farms for a year. Treatments will include combinations of foot-bathing, vaccination, antibiotics and culling.

Producers interested in taking part in the study should contact Dr Grogono (0117-928 9401). &#42