Sheep Event 2010: Lameness a huge cost to producers

More than 10% of UK sheep are lame at any one time, with footrot estimated to cost as much as £8.38 a ewe, according to FAI Farm’s consultant Ruth Clements.

“We have known lame sheep are costly in terms of time and antibiotic treatment, but the indirect costs soon mount up too, making lameness a limiting factor on many flocks in terms of productivity and profitability.”

Ms Clements explained that on FAI’s three farms involving 2500 ewes, 18% of sheep were affected by footrot and scald, which was costing £3365 a year for direct costs alone. “We also found footrot and scald led to concurrent diseases such as fly strike, particularly in the flank region.”

Lame sheep are also a visible problem as well as a welfare issue, which is why FAI Farms, Oxford, is trialling a new footrot control protocol. The new protocol, involves culling persistent offenders, improved biosecurity and Footvax vaccination bi-annually, Ms Clements explained.

“Already just one year into the project we have seen a 90% reduction in lameness problems and although the protocol is not a quick fix, we are delighted with the potential financial savings already.”

But to get lameness problems under control, correct diagnosis is critical, stressed Intervet Schering-Plough’s field vet adviser Jennifer O’Connor. “For example, scald is caused by a bacteria in between the digits and is a pr-cursor to footrot, whereas footrot occurs on the sole and hoof wall, with some infections occurring deeper in the hoof.

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