Sheep lameness needs correct management

Some healthy sheep. Sheep lameness infectious causes should be able to be managed to get levels down to less than two per cent.
Some healthy sheep. Sheep lameness infectious causes should be able to be managed to get levels down to less than two per cent.

We had our farm assurance inspection this week. This is for the Red Tractor logo, which you see on British meat in supermarkets and butchers.

This is to give consumers extra assurance that the animals are looked after well and requires farms to be inspected every 18 months.

The inspector had been a pig farmer who produced pigs on contract for a company which decided it did not want to be involved in the British pork business any longer so he had to sell his 500 sows.

I told him my day job was mainly a beef and sheep vet.

He said that another farm he had inspected had a compliance issue as it did not have a written health plan. I showed him ours and breathed a sigh of relief.

While he checked our sheep we got talking about lameness (we had about 1.5 per cent lame). One farm, which he had failed, had 30 per cent lame sheep.

The two most common forms of infectious causes of lameness can be eradicated or reduced to very low levels through correct management. In any flock there will never be no lame sheep, but if the causes of scald, footrot and CODD can be eradicated then levels can get down to under two per cent.

This saves the farmer lots of time as treating lame sheep is an arduous task and can be a constant battle. It is also costly, with one report suggesting that with eight per cent lameness it costs £15 per ewe.

Luckily, there are tools to tackle sheep lameness, and with pressure from industry to reduce the reliance on antibiotics, prevention will become even more important.

If you feel you are battling sheep lameness speak to your vet.

And for those of you wondering, we did manage to pass the assurance inspection – phew.