Preventing lameness: more detail

There are two aspects to controlling infectious causes of lameness in your flock:

  • Reducing the spread of disease between sheep
  • Reducing the susceptibility of your sheep to disease

Section 1: Reducing spread of disease

Footrot and CODD are infectious diseases that spread quickly and easily between sheep. Diseased animals carry more bacteria and spread them to other sheep. This means that if you can reduce the contact between healthy sheep and diseased sheep, you can reduce the spread of disease.

Watch the videos and read the information below to find out more about how you can stop infectious causes of lameness spreading between your sheep.

  • Prompt treatment of lame sheep reduces the number of bacteria on their feet, and the time that the bacteria have to spread.
  • Separation of lame sheep keeps the sheep with disease away from the healthy sheep until they recover.
  • Quarantining new sheep for 4 weeks means you can check that they don’t have disease before you mix them with your flock. See the page on biosecurity for more information.
  • Culling sheep that are lame more than twice in a season gets rid of the sheep that are acting as a reservoir of bacteria in your flock. These sheep are regularly lame and continue to spread the disease around the flock. By eliminating this reservoir, you are getting rid of a big source of infection and your lameness levels will go down. Find out more about recording lameness can help you make decisions about culling.

Section 2: Reducing susceptibility to disease

  • Breeding: Resistance to footrot is partly heritable, so you can select for resistance by breeding from sheep that don’t get footrot and avoid breeding from persistently lame sheep.
  • Vaccination: In a recent University of Warwick survey, 16% of farmers vaccinated ewes at least once a year against footrot. On average this reduced the level of lameness in their ewes by approximately 1% (that is, an average level of lameness of 2.9% instead of 3.7%).

There is one vaccine (Footvax™) which, when used appropriately, and with all other treatment and control managements, can help reduce the levels of footrot in some flocks. Whilst many farmers reduce footrot without vaccination, others consider it very useful. 
Careful planning is required to decide when to use the vaccine. The vaccine has a very irritant base and there are some side-effects that need to be considered seriously before using this vaccine. See vaccination for more information.

How do sheep farmers prevent lameness in their flocks?

What to do next:

Take the quiz on preventing lameness

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