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Sheep lameness, in particular footrot, is undoubtedly one of the most important health and welfare issues facing the UK sheep farmer.

Sheep lameness, in particular foot rot, is undoubtedly one of the most important health and welfare issues facing the UK sheep farmer.

When poorly controlled, sheep lameness causes visible pain, reduces performance and costs the sheep industry millions of pounds in terms of production loss, labour, treatments and premature culling.

The main causes of lameness in UK sheep are scald, footrot and contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD).


Inflamed interdigital area. Easily treated with oxytetracycline spray or formalin footbath.

If left untreated can lead to foot rot.

Foot rot

Underrun sole, hoof wall may come away. Pus often present with a foul smell.

Needs antibiotic spray plus an injection of long acting oxytetracycline. Foot bathing with formalin can be beneficial if large numbers affected.

Speak to your vet to decide if vaccination could benefit your flock.


Separation at the coronary band, where the skin and horn meet, with hair loss and ulceration.

Infection spreads down inside of wall and hoof capsule may be shed leaving raw tissue/bone.

No drugs are licenced specifically to treat CODD in the UK, so speak to your vet about specific antibiotic choice.

For all infectious causes of lameness it is important NOT to trim the feet. Ideally lame ewes should be marked and isolated from the rest of the flock.

If the infection fails to resolve the animal should be euthanised.

Individuals with recurrent lameness should be culled as soon as drug withdrawal times allow to reduce the spread of infection within the flock.

The Five Point Plan

This management plan gives farmers a clear framework to help control lameness in their flocks through the application of five points – cull, quarantine, treat, avoid, vaccinate.

It sets out to:

• Increase the sheep’s natural resilience to the diseases that cause lameness

• Reduce disease challenge and spread on farm

• Improve flock immunity via vaccination

These measures together can tip the balance towards having less lameness and a higher flock health status.

Your vet can help produce a plan specifically to reduce lameness in your flock.

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