A new management protocol designed to provide sheep producers with a long-term solution to flock footrot problems is being evaluated on three UK farms by FAI Farms.
FAI Farms consultant vet Ruth Clements: “Provided sheep producers take a long-term, combined approach to footrot problems there is no reason why significant improvements and cost savings cannot be made.”
The practical protocol – which has proved extremely effective in reducing the costs of lameness on a farm in Sussex and involves culling, vaccination, footbathing and early treatment of clinical cases – is now being assessed more widely, thanks to research funding from Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health.
Commenting on the importance of the initiative, FAI Farms consultant vet Ruth Clements pointed out that lameness continues to place a huge financial and welfare burden on the UK sheep industry.
“Quite apart from the negative financial and welfare aspects of sheep lameness, seeing lame sheep in fields year after year is a demoralising sight for farmers. Even when good control measures have been attempted, lameness can still persist – causing chronically high costs in terms of time, labour and medicines. However, if footrot is the cause of your problem – and on many farms very often it is – it can be controlled if you tackle it on a whole flock basis,” she said.
FAI Farms undertakes farm-scale development projects to improve animal welfare within commercial farming systems. Findings are disseminated to UK producers and further afield through the European Farmers Network – an EU-wide group of farmers who demonstrate excellence and innovation. If successful on its own farm at Wytham near Oxford and on two other trial sites in Wales and Northumberland, Ruth Clements hopes the new protocol will be taken up more widely by UK sheep producers.
“Provided farmers take a long-term, combined approach to this problem there’s no reason why significant improvements and cost savings cannot be made,” she said.
The three farms involved in the study have now started on the sheep lameness reduction protocol and the initial 5-point schedule, in simplified outline, is as follows:
- Cull any badly or repeatedly affected animals.
- Quarantine incoming animals.
- Treat clinical cases early.
- Take care not to propagate infection at gathering.
FAI Farms will be monitoring the results over the next three years and reporting periodically on the findings in more detail.
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