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Stackyard News Jul 2012

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New Five-Point Plan to Cut Sheep Lameness

Sheep producers attending NSA Sheep 2012 this week heard how the implementation of a practical new five-point plan could help the industry meet FAWC lameness reduction targets by 2016 (5% or less) and 2021 (2% or less).

The new protocol provides farmers with a comprehensive
plan to cut lameness incidence significantly

lame sheep

Speaking at the sheep industry’s showpiece event (Wednesday 4th July), consultant vet to FAI Farms Ruth Clements said the proven new protocol provided farmers with a comprehensive plan to cut lameness incidence significantly.

“Lameness is a highly complex problem, which means a combination of steps is required to tackle the issue. But provided farmers take a consistent, long-term approach there is no reason why significant improvements and cost savings cannot be made,” she said.

The new protocol is the result of a three-year commercial farm trial programme, co-ordinated by FAI Farms and supported by MSD Animal Health.

“The development of the five-point plan came from frustration with the lameness incidence in our own sheep at FAI Farms, and a commitment to help farmers develop actionable solutions to health problems,” Ruth Clements said. “But we’ve shown that if you adopt a mindset change and commit to the plan, great strides can be made.”

The five-point plan is not sequential, but rather a series of management steps that need to be co-ordinated within a flock to reap the rewards of a much lower lameness incidence:

The Five-Point Plan

  • Treat clinical cases early. Treating lame sheep early brings strong financial and performance benefits, with a greater proportion of lambs from early treated ewes staying alive and growing faster.
  • Vaccinate animals to stimulate immunity. Vaccination should be part of a whole flock approach to disease control. The aim is to raise immunity within the flock to help improve the success of the other disease steps.
  • Avoid spreading infection at gathering and handling. Footrot and scald are infectious bacterial diseases, which can easily spread from animal to animal. Ensure sheep handling areas are clean and well drained; dirty concrete is just as bad as soil.
  • Quarantine incoming animals. Make sure a good procedure is in place to separate bought-in stock for four weeks after purchase.
  • Cull badly or repeatedly affected animals. When a ewe has had more than one bout of footrot in a season she should be given a cull tag. This will help prevent the cycle of infection. Culling may be high in the first year, but will reduce dramatically thereafter.

Further information on the practical five-point plan is available from veterinary practices, animal health trade outlets and/or MSD Animal Health.

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