Bluestone should not be used in Texel sheep footbaths, expert warns

Texel sheep producers should not use bluestone in foot baths, according to independent veterinary consultant Dr Fiona Lovett.

Speaking at the Teagasc National Sheep Conference in Trim, she said that copper sulphate is used extensively for this purpose in Ireland.

“Flockowners with Texel sheep should be aware of the health-related issues for this breed when using copper. There is also a heightened awareness in the UK of the environmental pollution issues relating to the use of this chemical,” she said.

Lovett also pointed out that foot bathing will have no impact whatsoever on lameness levels within sheep flocks, unless the facilities used are fit for purpose.

“Zinc and formalin are the active ingredients of choice for foot baths. Formalin should not be used at concentrations above 3%.

“In order to maximise the impact of foot bathing, it is important to clean the feet of sheep before they come into contact with the active chemical. This can be achieved by pre hosing  or having a pre-bath containing clean water.

“Sheep should be allowed to rest on hard standing for a few minutes after foot bathing. Simply allowing them to go back to pasture will have the effect of washing away the active foot bath chemical.”

Lameness

Lovett confirmed that foot bathing, while helping to prevent lameness in sheep, should not be regarded as a cure for footrot.

“Ewes with clinical footrot must be treated with the appropriate antibiotic. If the same ewe presents with this problem on more than two occasions, the animal should be culled from the flock as soon as she is sound.

“Footrot is an inheritable disorder. Ewes that demonstrate chronic symptoms should not be used for breeding purposes,” she said.

Lovett also pointed out that feeding points and those areas that are most trafficked by sheep are focal points for the spread of footrot infection.

“The campylobacter bacterium, responsible or footrot, cannot survive in high pH conditions. As a consequence, there is strong merit in spreading lime around feed troughs, gateways and other areas that are heavily trafficked by sheep,” she said.

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