Eradicating footrot

Vaccination is the most effective method of controlling footrot in sheep, the biggest labour scourge in sheep, according to veterinary expert, Fergal Morris. He said Teagasc figures show that ten percent of sheep suffer from footrot and many flocks have up to 20 percent of the flock infected. The overall income loss from the disease is at least ten percent, not to mention the huge labour load involved in treating infected animals. ‘Footrot, which is caused by two separate bacteria, is highly infectious and can be spread by sheep showing no outward disease symptoms. Foot trimming, food bathing and antibiotic treatment of infected cases will not solve the problem. However, these measures combined with vaccination are proven to dramatically reduce the incidence of the disease,’ said Fergal Morris, who is veterinary adviser with Intervet-Schering Plough. He said research has shown that where flocks were vaccinated footrot problems were reduced by over percent, leading to significant income gains and labour savings.  ‘Sheep never develop immunity to footrot, resulting in some animals remaining permanently infected and spreading the disease to the rest of the flock. The bacteria can survive in soil for 10 days, but the main reservoir of infection is infected sheep feet. Therefore, in order to treat existing cases and to prevent new infections, it is essential to vaccinate all sheep. Vaccination will also help to reduce the amount of antibiotics used to treat footrot,’ he said. He said the summer period – between shearing and start of the breeding season – is the ideal time for vaccinating against footrot. On most farms a single injection is adequate but where infection persists, a repeat injection can be given between six weeks and six months later.