A good spring flush may bring foot problems for sheep.
There are various causes of lameness in sheep, but a question often asked is, "is it foot abscess or footrot?"
A sheep with foot abscess will usually only be lame in just one foot.
This is an important difference from footrot, where more than one foot will invariably be affected.
Although foot abscess is associated with the bacterium Fusobacterium necrophorum it is not contagious.
In contrast, footrot, caused by the bacterium Dichelobacter nodosus, can spread quickly in warm, moist conditions.
The severity of the effects of footrot, which are inflammation between the toes and underrunning of the hoof, will depend upon whether the strain of bacteria is benign (mild) or virulent (severe).
Benign footrot has poor ability to under-run the hoof horn and mostly affects the skin between the toes and can be controlled by foot bathing. Moving sheep on to drier country is often sufficient to help recovery. However, the disease is likely to recur in the next favourable season.
Virulent footrot bacteria rapidly under-run and separate the hoof horn from the foot. If regular foot bathing is required to control the disease, then it is possible that virulent footrot is present, and a different strategy needs to be taken.
For more information on footrot control, treatment and eradication strategies, please visit the Agriculture Victoria website.
Footrot of sheep and goats is a scheduled disease under disease control legislation. This means:
The foot of a sheep with foot abscess will appear hot and will be swollen and painful. The abscess can be present in either the toe or the heel of the foot.
A foot abscess contains pus and can be treated by hoof paring to provide drainage. Antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian will also help.
In a spring with abundant feed, sheep can become unusually heavy. This coupled with standing on wet pasture or muddy ground for extended periods of time, leaves them susceptible to developing foot abscess.
For further advice, please contact your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria Veterinary or Animal Health Officer, or in NSW your LLS.
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