Rainfall and mild weather combine to create environment for spread of contagious lameness

Eamon O'Connell
Eamon O'Connell

Eamon O'Connell

Lameness is the bane of every sheep farmer's life. It appears as if from nowhere, often spreads quickly and is becoming increasingly hard to cure.

Monetary cost is one thing, but the physical hardship of catching, examining and treating affected ewes is hard to quantify. The mental anguish of dealing with a lameness outbreak that is not resolving can be very challenging.

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The recent heavy rain has resulted in areas around water troughs and feeders getting very mucked up, creating the ideal environment for the spread of the contagious lameness such as foot rot and CODD.

Equally, the very mild weather during the spring made conditions indoors all the more ideal for the development and spread of lameness.

In order to get a handle on a lameness outbreak, it is important to know what you are dealing with. Any new case should be closely examined.

If in any doubt, call your vet to have a look. The cost of a visit fee to a lame sheep may seems prohibitive, but one visit may allow a lameness outbreak to be controlled before it gets out of hand, thereby saving quite a lot of money and hardship.

Treatment will vary depending on cause. I have heard a lot of farmers of late talk about how a certain "wonder drug" worked brilliantly on a neighbour's farm. One shot and bang, the lameness was gone. I would always take these stories with a pinch of salt. Every farm is different and what works well on one farm may be completely ineffective on another farm with a similar looking, but different lameness.

Any ewe that is being caught for treatment should also be given something for pain relief. Consult with your vet about what medication is suitable for pain-relief in sheep.

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From a welfare point of view, pain relief is vital with the added bonus of reducing inflammation which will result in a quicker recovery.

Regular foot bathing will greatly aid in reducing the spread of contagious causes of lameness. Vaccination too plays an important role. Good hygiene is vital as any dirty area can act as a reservoir of infection.

Some targeted work now could hopefully get an outbreak under control early and thereby avoid a summer of lameness discontent.

Indo Farming