Footrot is the progression of scald. It is easily distinguishable with a grey, oozing pus and a foul smell. The hoof horn starts to separate, starting in the interdigital space. It is caused by the same bacteria as scald which can live for a couple of weeks on pasture, thriving in warm and moist conditions. Footrot can also be found in housed sheep where the flock is kept on warm bedding.
Once identified, footrot must be treated immediately with a long-acting antibiotic injection combined with antibiotic spray. There are many different strains of footrot and some cause more severe disease than others. They may also respond to different types of antibiotic so please do discuss your choice of antibiotic with us to ensure we are getting the best results.
Avoid trimming an infected foot as the bacteria will be spread in trimmings on the floor and on your foot shears and can survive for a long time despite some disinfectants. The foot may be overgrown but this is caused by the infection, the infection is not caused by the overgrowth, and once treated the foot will return to a normal shape.
Sheep with footrot are very infectious and spread the bacteria quickly to other sheep or lambs at foot. Prompt treatment and isolation, if possible, will therefore prevent further contamination of the pasture and more cases.
The following strategies are useful to reduce the incidence of footrot:
- Prompt treatment of even mildly lame sheep early on to avoid the spread of infection.
- Avoid the spread of infection at gathering and handling by good hygiene of handling areas or footbathing sheep after handling to disinfect their feet. Spreading lime in areas of high traffic can also reduce the risk of infection.
- Try not to select replacements with a history of lameness.
- Cull sheep that have footrot more than twice in a season.
- Consider the use of vaccination (Footvax) before high risk periods.
- Quarantine incoming sheep for a month on arrival, examine all feet carefully for problems and run them through a footbath.