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Check for foot problems in sheep

Belinda Edmonstone, District Veterinarian, Forbes Office

In some areas of the Central West Local Land Services region pasture conditions are becoming conducive for the spread of footrot and for the development of other foot issues in sheep.

Footrot in sheep

If the weather remains mild and pastures continue to grow, producer needs to be monitoring for signs of lameness in their flock.

Footrot is a highly contagious disease affecting all classes of sheep and goats, causing a significant impact on production. The disease causes underrunning between the hard and soft tissue of the feet resulting in severe lameness in usually more than one foot. 

This condition is still regulated in NSW; therefore producers are legally required to notify Local Land Services if they suspect they have a problem.

Other reasons for lameness due to foot issues are foot abscess and foot scald. Foot abscess causes swelling of the foot and severe lameness – usually in heavily pregnant ewes and rams. Generally only one foot is affected. 

Foot scald causes inflammation of the skin between the claws and will affect all classes of stock. Stock grazing in clover paddocks will be more severely affected.

When buying any sheep, it is important to remember there is a risk in introducing footrot. Request a Sheep Health Statement from the vendor. 

When the sheep arrive inspect them thoroughly as they come off the truck for any signs of lameness. These sheep should then be quarantined in a paddock well away from other sheep, ideally until they have been through a spread period (when conditions are wet and warm enough for the spread of footrot if it is present). 

If any lameness is seen, the mob needs to be closely examined by an expert before any treatment is administered. 

Treatment can mask the signs of footrot. 

If you were to introduce footrot through the purchasing of new sheep, it is a lot easier to eradicate if the disease has been contained in the recently introduced mob.

In the case of rams, this involves some forward planning. Purchase your rams well in advance, so they can be quarantined for a period. 

Remember goats are also affected by virulent footrot, so the same applies to this species as it does to sheep.

If you are concerned about lameness in sheep or goats your district vet will be happy to examine them to determine the cause.