Lameness in Sheep or GoatsYou should NEVER ignore lameness in sheep or goats. Lameness is a sign of several foot conditions – some of which are very serious – as well as some other problems. They include:
The more common foot conditions can be avoided or minimised if you take the appropriate preventative measures as part of your normal sheep management program. These preventative measures include:
Please note that footrot is a serious disease. If you have an outbreak, it is not sufficient to simply footbath your sheep until they no longer show the signs. An outbreak of footrot requires a comprehensive on-farm program to, firstly, treat the lameness and then, secondly, to eradicate footrot from the property. If you fail to have and implement such a program, footrot will return each time the seasonal conditions are right. The following is an outline only. If you have or suspect footrot on your property, you should seek professional help to develop an eradication program that best suits your situation.
- Often affects more than one foot.
- In mild cases (known as scald), some reddening between the toes.
- In more severe cases, underrunning (ie separation) of horn from hoof. Starts at the heel, then progresses to sole, toe and eventually outer wall.
- Infected feet often smell.
- Infected feet may become flyblown.
- Unless you have had an outbreak of the disease on your property over the last two or three years, bringing infected sheep or goats onto the property is the most likely source of footrot.
- As the bacterium that causes footrot can live in the feet of a carrier sheep for two or three years, if you have had footrot on your property in that time and you have not adequately culled the more susceptible sheep in the flock, the disease can keep re-appearing if conditions are right. These conditions include:
- Wet pasture, particularly as the weather warms up in spring or early summer.
- Failing to maintain feet in healthy condition significantly increases the risk of footrot.
- Some sheep are more prone to footrot than others. Such animals can be the carriers of the bacterium through a dry summer or a normal winter, when environmental conditions for the survival of the footrot bacterium are not good.
- Remember that the British and European breeds are generally less susceptible to footrot than Merinos.
- Culling any sheep that do not respond quickly to treatment will help reduce the likelihood of future infections. But be sure to send any such sheep directly to slaughter. If you sell them through the saleyards, you will only be passing on your problem to someone else.
- Inspect the sheep’s feet regularly and treat any feet problems promptly.
- Keep the sheep’s feet in good condition by paring whenever necessary. Regular paring, especially when paddock conditions are wet, will ensure you can pare the feet minimally (ie not risk drawing blood or exposing tissue).
- Lameness and obvious acute pain.
- Swelling, usually just above the hoof.
- In more severe cases, a build up of pus can be seen in that area just above the hoof or between the toes.
- Often only one foot is affected and it is more likely to be a front foot.
- Usually foot abscess affects only a small number in a flock.
- Bacterial infection of a foot that has suffered physical damage or prolonged irritation, such as grazing stubble.
- Wet paddock conditions.
- Failure to maintain sheep’s feet in good condition.
- Heavy sheep are more prone to foot abscess.
- Pare or trim the feet, clean the infected area and apply an anti-bacterial compound. Antibiotic injections and keeping the sheep on a dry surface will assist healing. Applying zinc sulphate and bandaging may help. Many cases take a prolonged period to heal and often the foot is permanently deformed.
- Ensure the sheep’s feet are kept in good condition by regular inspection and paring. Prevent sheep from getting too heavy. Pre-lamb shearing has helped in some cases.
FMD has not occurred in any state of Australia for 130 years. An outbreak of FMD would be a major threat to the whole of Tasmania’s livestock and tourism industries – especially if the first case of any FMD outbreak is not diagnosed very quickly. That is why it is so important that livestock owners do not assume that lameness in any of their animals is simply footrot or one of the other foot problems that occur in Tasmanian sheep and goats from time to time. Any lame sheep or goat should be inspected without delay.
For more detailed information on FMD see our FMD web page.
Signs in sheep and goats
- Blisters on the feet (between the toes and/or immediately above the hoof), around the mouth (especially the dental pad) and, more rarely, around the udder.
- These blisters burst after a few days and become sores, so you may see sores rather than blisters.
- It is important to understand that the signs of FMD in sheep and goats are usually much less obvious than in cattle or pigs. Typically, only a small percentage of animals in the flock have the signs. And, even then, these signs may be modest.
- FMD is highly contagious, so the most likely cause is direct contact with an infected animal or airborne virus coming from an infected animal up to a few kilometres away.
- Feeding FMD-infected feed.
- The FMD virus can survive for long periods in feed, in wood (ie fences, sheds), in soil, in water and even on plastic. Virtually any such matter coming onto a property could be a source of FMD. That is why disinfecting is such an important part of farm biosecurity during an FMD outbreak.
- Similarly, during an outbreak, the FMD virus could be brought onto a property by humans who do not disinfect properly.
- Under the nationally-agreed AUSVETPLAN, animals with FMD or that are deemed to be at risk of FMD (in most cases, animals on properties near an FMD outbreak) would be slaughtered. Strict quarantine and movement restrictions would apply to all other susceptible livestock during any FMD outbreak.
- Keep the FMD virus out of Australia through strict quarantine controls at our airports and seaports.
- Ensure everyone who comes into the country is aware of and abides by the import bans or restrictions on various foods and other potential carriers of the FMD virus.
- Vigorously enforce the ban on swill feeding to pigs.
- Because Australia has not had FMD for over 130 years, there is a risk we could become complacent. Of all the exotic animal diseases, FMD is the most potentially serious – mainly because of the speed with which it can spread.
- Our first line of defence against FMD is our quarantine barrier. Our second line of defence relies on farmers and all other people who work with livestock to know what FMD looks like and to report any suspect animals immediately. That is why it is so important not to ignore or delay a close inspection of any lame sheep or goat.
- If you suspect FMD please call 1800 675 888, the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline.
- OID looks like scald, which is a mild form of footrot.
- Reddening between the toes. Sometimes fluid weeps into this area.
- While OID looks like the early stages of footrot, there is no underrunning of the horn.
- Often affects more than one foot.
- Warm wet weather, especially when the pasture is lush or the paddocks muddy.
- Remove the sheep from the lush pasture or muddy paddock. Overnight housing on the grating in the shearing shed or on a dry, hard floor is often sufficient. If possible, put the sheep into a drier pasture or less muddy paddock afterwards.
- As the organism that causes OID is ever present, the disease can occur whenever the weather and paddock conditions are right. There is little you can do to prevent OID, other than keep your sheep pastured on the drier parts of the property during any spell of warm, wet weather.
- In severe cases, lameness.
- The horn starts to separate from the hoof, usually along the outer wall. A cavity forms between the horn and the hoof and this fills with soil and dung. When paddock conditions are wet, this can cause inflammation and, from there, infection.
- Sometimes the separation of horn from hoof starts at the toe and the cavity forms at the front of the foot.
- Because a prime cause of Shelly Hoof is poor maintenance of the feet, it is likely that other sheep in a mob would have been similarly neglected and may therefore also have the condition. Usually, however, only a small number of sheep in a mob are lame. The lameness often affects only one foot and more often a front foot than a back foot.
- Failure to maintain the sheep’s feet in good condition
- There is some evidence that Shelly Hoof may be, in part at least, hereditary.
- Merinos are more susceptible than British or European breeds, especially in higher rainfall areas. Sheep with black hooves are generally less susceptible.
- Unless infection is present, paring the feet and cleaning the dung and soil out of the cavity is all that is needed.
- If infection is present or suspected, the sheep should be footbathed as well.
- If paddock conditions are wet, try and keep the sheep on drier ground after paring. If rocky ground is available or if the sheep can be grazed on a gravel farm track for a day or two after paring, the action of walking on very hard ground will tend to empty any remaining material from the cavities in the feet.
- If Shelly Hoof is a problem on your property, you will need to have a regular foot inspection and paring program. Paring should always be minimal, as radical paring is harmful to the sheep. The overall goal is to have the sheep’s feet in good condition before the wet conditions of winter and early spring.
- When paddock conditions are wet, running your sheep on dry, rocky ground or on gravel farm tracks for short periods will help significantly in keeping the sheep’s feet in reasonable shape.