How to vaccinate for orf disease in lambs

Orf is a highly contagious virus in sheep that causes infection to the skin, particularly around the lips and occasionally in the mouth.

It can lead to reduced growth rates and sometimes death in lambs and can also lead to mastitis in ewes with lambs at foot.

It can be difficult to detect and control so regular vaccination programmes are essential to prevent outbreaks.

An orf vaccine will help prevent the disease but must only be used where there are confirmed cases of orf on the farm, otherwise it could cause an outbreak.

Read this guide to best practice technique for vaccinating lambs on your farm. You can also watch the video below.


1 Before use, sterilise the vaccinator with boiling water to prevent a spread of infection via the prongs. Do not use a disinfectant. Allow the vaccinator to dry.

2. Insert the vaccine bottle into the vaccinator and using your thumb to depress the pump.


3. Prime the pump until a small drop of fluid appears at the bottom.


4. Be careful not to allow the fluid to come into contact with your skin, it is a communicable disease and can cause skin infection.

5. Take care not to contaminate the ground area with the vaccine or used materials.


1. With a second person holding the lamb, find a bald area of skin under the lamb’s foreleg.

Vaccinating a lamb

2. Do not apply the vaccine to the back leg as sheep sniff at the rear to identify each other, and this could cause a spread of the disease via the nose coming into contact with the vaccine.


3. Hold the vaccinator at a 45 degree angle to the skin and draw the prongs along the area in a line.

Vaccinating a lamb

4. Use enough pressure to cause a small scratch so that the vaccine can “take” but not so deep that is draws blood. You should see a line on the skin.

The scratch will form a scab which will dry and fall off approximately seven weeks after vaccination.

Vaccinating a lamb


5. If the prongs on the vaccinator get blocked with dirt or grease, use clean cotton wool to clear it and bin the used cotton wool. Do not re-use the cotton wool.

Cleaning a vaccinator

6. When finished each vaccination, clean the vaccinator again with boiling water.

See also: More information about orf and how to control it in flocks

 This article is based on a video produced by Farmers Weekly with XL Vets. Watch the video below.