Sheep farming

How to treat footrot in sheep

Footrot is one of the main causes of lameness in sheep, but what is the cost and what are the treatments available?

The cost of footrot

In 2014 AHDB published a shocking estimate of the annual financial loss to the Sheep Industry from footrot.  This amounted to some £6 for every one of the 16 million ewes in Britain.

Part of this loss relates to the costs of medicines and additional labour required in treating sheep with footrot.  However, an even bigger drain on profitability is the effect that footrot has on fertility and productivity.

Ewes with footrot frequently lose condition; deliver fewer and smaller lambs, and produce less milk to feed them. Rams with footrot are unable to perform as required in the tupping period and lambs with footrot often fail to thrive as they should. 

4 tips for treating footrot in sheep

Effective treatment of footrot depends on a number of different factors. 

1. Catch infections early.  Examine sheep as soon as they show signs of lameness.  The quicker a case of footrot is treated the greater the chance of complete recovery.  You should always call your vet if you are unsure of the cause of lameness.  Although scald and footrot are the most common causes, other conditions can lead to lameness too. 

2. Discuss with your vet the best treatment for sheep with footrot.  Whilst topical antibacterial sprays kill bugs on the surface of the foot, it is only when sheep are injected with a suitable antibiotic that the deeper levels of infection are dealt with.

Do not pare affected feet – this has been proven to delay healing significantly and often makes lameness even worse.

3. Keep sheep with footrot separate until they have been successfully treated.  Footrot is contagious and sheep with footrot are a source of infection to their healthy flock mates.  Ensure that any lame sheep are comfortable and have easy access to adequate food and water.   

4. Record tag numbers every time you treat a sheep for footrot.  Remove “repeat offenders” and any sheep with chronically infected and misshapen feet.  It may be hard to part with productive ewes, but they represent a risk to the rest of the flock.  Taking a firm line on culling will pay dividends in the long run. 

What next?

We now understand footrot better than ever before, yet it remains a major welfare issue and drain on profitability for many flocks.  This doesn’t need to be the case.  Speak to your vet and together make a plan to reduce the scourge of footrot in your flock.

For further information, please see the product SPC, or contact your veterinary surgeon, SQP or Zoetis UK Ltd, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Walton on the Hill, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7NS. Customer Support 0845 3008034. www.zoetis.co.uk . Always seek the advice of your medicines provider. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible).

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