The most important step to tackling lameness in a sheep flock is to establish how much lameness is there and what is causing it, according to Teagasc sheep specialist, Tom Coll.

In the video below, on scald and footrot in sheep, Tom says that they are three infectious causes of sheep lameness:

  • Scald;
  • Footrot; and,
  • Contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD).

Catherine O’Leary, a vet with MSD Animal Health, says that scald can be noticed by a reddening in the hoof and is caused by a bacterial infection.

The bacteria is found in the soil and if signs in the hoof of reddening are left, it can cause further damage to the hoof and can cause the bacteria to multiply, Catherine said.

Footrot often follows scald, as a second bacterial infection, and is a highly contiguous sheep-to-sheep disease, she said, and one that sheep need develop resistance to.

According to Catherine, the footrot bacteria will survive for 10 to 14 days off pasture and it can lead to infection during this time.

She said the most obvious sign of footrot is the smell of it.

She recommends treating any infected sheep early, even in cases of mild footrot and to treat it with antibiotics.

Catherine said, after treatment, it is important to turn the sheep out to a clean pasture – one that hasn’t held sheep in 10 to 14 day, as this will help prevent a re-occurrence of footrot.

According to Catherine, there is a vaccine available against footrot which can be used to treat it and also as a preventive measure for the rest of the flock.