Lameness is the plague of most sheep farmers. Aside from the time spent treating lame sheep, lameness also comes at a huge cost both in terms of the cost of chemicals / antibiotics to treat the disease and the lack of growth that lame sheep experience.
A study conducted by Teagasc on sheep farms several years ago showed that the incidence of lameness in lowland herds ranged from 18pc to 1pc. The lens should be less than 5pc. So what are the issues and how can we keep the incidence of lameness below target?
Understanding what the main causes of lameness are is the key to controlling them.
Over 90% of lameness is caused by foot rot or scald. Scald causing organisms are found in the environment and will therefore constantly challenge sheep.
The foot rot organism, on the other hand, is an organism that needs sheep to survive and it cannot survive for long periods of time in the absence of sheep.
In theory, therefore, it should be possible to completely eliminate foot rot from your flock of sheep, but in practice chronically infected sheep tend to harbor the infection, making complete elimination difficult.
When sheep are housed, the disease challenge increases due to the high stocking rate and the sheep’s close proximity to each other. When a large number of sheep limp in the housing, the lameness can get out of hand if left untreated.
Over the next month, many sheep will be housed in Irish sheep farms. By taking a few simple steps before housing, it is possible to reduce lameness to manageable levels.
When housing sheep, there are two rules of thumb when it comes to lameness. The first is never to house a lame sheep. And the second is to start the treatment two weeks before the accommodation so that you don’t have lame sheep at the accommodation.
To be successful, you will need an effective foot bath. The key word here is effective.
So what constitutes an effective foot bath? The points below are the essential elements of an effective foot bath:
1 Know how much solution the foot bath takes. Only then can you use the right amount of the chemical.
2 Use the correct amount of chemical. The dilution rate for copper zinc sulfate is 1 kg of chemical per 10 liters of water (1 lb per gallon). If you are using formalin, the dilution rate is three liters of formalin per 100 liters of water.
3 Sheep should enter the footbath with relatively clean feet. Either walk them on gravel before taking a footbath or, better yet, a second footbath with water to wash the feet before they enter the footbath containing the solution. chemical.
4 Maximize the time the sheep spend in the foot bath. Standing foot baths where a group of sheep sit in the solution for about 10 minutes is a better option than passing baths.
5 Once the sheep have left the footbath, they should be allowed to stand on clean, dry ground (preferably concrete or gravel) for as long as possible.
After the foot bath, lame sheep tend to lift the infected paw. This can help you identify sheep that need to be turned and possibly trimmed.
When the infection is particularly serious, treatment with an antibiotic may be considered under veterinary advice.
Lame sheep should be separated from healthy sheep and given a foot bath every four to five days until they recover.
Once the sheep are in the house, it is a good idea to continue taking foot baths at regular intervals. This does not happen in many herds.
Using hydrated lime along the feeding barrier before litter in pens twice a week has been shown to help prevent the spread of lameness in housed sheep. This is especially important when sheep are fed relatively moist silage.
This year, take steps to prevent lameness from entering the fold. Start your foot bath at least two weeks before the accommodation so that you have time to deal with problematic cases.