What's causing lameness in your sheep?
Every sheep farmer has lame sheep. Lameness is one of the most common and persistent disease problems in Irish sheep flocks.
Lameness creates a major cost on many farms in terms of time and money spent on products to treat and prevent the condition as well as the associated production loss.
Apart from being an animal welfare issue, lameness has adverse effects on production, fertility and longevity.
One must first establish the cause of the disease before attempting to control or treat lameness. The different lameness conditions can be easily misdiagnosed. Accurate diagnosis can be made based on the clinical examination of a number of sheep and based on key symptoms of the different causes;
Scald - This occurs between the hooves and is usually red/pink and moist with the loss of hair. It comes from inflammation of the skin between the digits. Antibiotic sprays or footbaths are usually sufficient. With Scald there is no smell and no involvement of the hoof.
Footrot - This is a hoof disease that generally starts between digits but develops to an under run hoof and it also has a distinctive smell. Rotting in the hoof is also another sign. Footrot is a sheep to sheep disease and control and prevention must focus on the whole flock. It is particularly transmissible when sheep are confined in a small area e.g. during housing periods, in handling yards, contaminated bedding or access routes. To treat individual cases of Footrot, injectable antibiotics should be used. There is a vaccine available to reduce the incidence of the disease
Shelly Hoof - The wall of the hoof detaches and debris and soil enter the space, as result abscesses usually develop. Treatment is only necessary if lame. Careful paring may be required to release debris and soil.