Take steps to eradicate all forms of lameness
My, how the winter has hit us! Gone are mild autumn evenings with our sheep grazing the extended dry days of the season. Sheep disease in all its forms is to be pinched out of the flock at this time.
Lameness is a problem on a lot of farms we visited recently. In some flocks we saw sporadic cases, with the majority of ewes showing no problems at all. In others we found more than 20pc of the sheep with foot problems and, on one farm, we had more than 60pc of adult ewes affected -- and more than half of them showed lameness on more than one foot.
A correct diagnosis is vital to ensure a speedy return to full fitness. There are three main causes of sheep lameness:
1. Foot scald;
3. White line disease (shelly hoof).
1. Foot scald involves abrasions and cuts between the toes of the sheep's foot. The area is inflamed and sore but usually dry to look at and feel. It is quite painful but is usually limited to the soft skin between the toes and at the base of the foot. The cause is usually environmental in origin, such as the nature of grass cover that sheep are walking through. Long stemmy old-lay is abrasive, as are scutch and briars, or even stubble in the autumn. Grazing the 'long-acre' of harvested fields can be included in the history of lowland flocks. Extra-thick gorse and rough grazing of hill flocks sees more sheep scald.
Foot scald is sporadic in nature and should not cause lameness outbreaks.