Lameness doesn't just affect a ewe's leg, it hits your pocket too

Pat Clarke, Sheep Specialist, Teagasc demonstrates how to pare a ewe's hoof at a Teagasc Sheep Demonstration in Kilkenny Mart. Picture: Michael Brophy.
Pat Clarke, Sheep Specialist, Teagasc demonstrates how to pare a ewe's hoof at a Teagasc Sheep Demonstration in Kilkenny Mart. Picture: Michael Brophy.

Eamon O'Connell

Lameness has become so common in flocks this spring that it is unusual now to see a number of ewes in a field together where at least one isn't lame.

However, lameness doesn't just affect a ewe's leg, it affects the farmers pocket too with a single case of lameness estimated to cost up to €20. Lameness results in increased culling rates and a reduction in fertility.

Add to this the cost of treatment as well as the laborious task of paring feet and we soon realise just how significant a problem lameness in a flock can be. There are a number of steps that should be taken to try and keep lameness to a minimum.

Establish the type of lameness. Catch individual lame ewes and turn them over. Thoroughly clean all around the hooves to see exactly what type of lesion is present. Foot rot, Contagious Ovine Digital Dermatitis and scald are just some of the conditions that will be found, each of which will require a different course of action.

Use the correct treatment: When you have found the cause of the lameness, talk to your vet about the correct course of action to be taken. The type of antibiotic used will be determined by the type of lameness present. Always consider using an anti-inflammatory. Lameness is a painful condition and reducing pain will result in a quicker recovery.

Remove potential sources. Hygiene is most important when it comes to lameness. Dirty pens and handling facilities can serve as a reservoir of infection. Clean, dry pens that are easily cleaned and disinfected regularly are important.

Clean and disinfect handling facilities before and after use. Gentle handling of sheep is also important as bacteria often gain entry through cuts and abrasions around the hooves.

In the field too, areas around water troughs and feed troughs are particularly mucky this year and can act as a source of infection.

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Foot bath: Make sure feet are clean before entering into footbath. Using a separate bath of water before the main footbath is a useful idea. Your vet will advise you on the best solution to use.

Vaccination: A vaccine against footrot can be very useful. The small cost of a vaccine could save a much higher cost of a lameness outbreak if not used.

Eamon O'Connell is a vet with Summerhill Veterinary Clinic in Nenagh, Co Tipperary; Facebook: The Moovet - Summerhill Vet Clinic

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