Important information about Footrot

Footrot is a highly infectious disease causing lameness which is painful, can affect reproductive performance, and reduce wool yield and quantity.

Two bacteria are involved: Fusobacterium necrophorum which first infects the hoof space, typically between the toes, and is then followed by Dichelobacter nodosus which enters deep into the foot leading to under-running of the hoof and a typical smell.

Most commonly seen in warm and wet conditions during Spring and Autumn, the bacteria spreads via infected feet and passes easily within the flock. Ewes in poor body condition due to lameness will usually have fewer, smaller lambs which can directly affect lambing percentage goals.

An ongoing, preventative programme using integrated control methods is the best way of protecting valuable capital stock and farm productivity. It should include some or all of the following elements:

  • Regular monitoring of sheep hooves
  • Paring and footbathing when necessary
  • Separating affected animals
  • Culling susceptible animals
  • Checking security of boundaries
  • Checking bought-in stock and treating if necessary
  • A preventative programme of vaccination using Footvax

Vaccination builds immunity against D. nodosus, which is why it can help both prevent footrot and treat it. Early treatment has strong financial and performance benefits for the whole flock. All at-risk sheep, including and especially rams, should be given two doses, six weeks to six months apart, followed by an annual booster. This gives flexibility to fit in with your management.

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