£24 million – the price we pay for lame sheep

Farmers are being encouraged to step up their actions when it comes to lameness control within their sheep flocks.

Research has shown that the issue could cost the UK industry £24 million a year¹ in expenditure and lost production. The problems caused by lameness can lead to a loss in body condition, lower lambing percentages, reduced lamb growth rates and poor fertility in rams.

One of the causes of lameness is Contagious Ovine Digital Dermatitis (CODD) which is a relatively new infectious foot disease affecting sheep. Surveys have shown that CODD may now affect over 35% of flocks in the UK.

This was an issue addressed by vet Dr Joe Angell, a guest speaker at the last ON-Farm meeting held by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC). Dr Joe Angell of Wern Vets, based in Conwy county and Denbighshire, conducted a study at the University of Liverpool into the treatment of CODD which was part-funded by HCC.

One of the six participating farmers in the project was Llŷr Jones of Derwydd Farm, Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr. Since undertaking the study, Llŷr says that lameness within the flock is very much under control and typically throughout the year is under 2%, significantly lower than the national average. He continues to manage lameness by following the 5-point plan. He said: “Working with your vet to identify lameness problems and using all parts of the 5-point plan will help you successfully control lameness and improve the efficiency of your business.”

According to Dr Joe Angell, purchased sheep are considered to be the main way CODD is introduced to a farm. During the ON-Farm meeting held at Bridgend College in May, he said that by controlling footrot, the risk of sheep developing CODD is reduced. He is a keen advocate of the 5-point plan for footrot which means treating early, vaccinating, culling, avoiding, and keeping sheep in quarantine. Other key messages were to correctly identify the cause of any lameness as the treatment required varies between sources. 

HCC’s James Ruggeri, Industry Development Executive said: “Increasing the efficiency of the Welsh flock through improved health planning is essential, which is why Joe’s study was part of HCC’s Research and Development portfolio.

“When the study was first funded by HCC, very little work had been conducted on CODD. It is pleasing to see that, by today, the findings and recommendations from the study are being implemented on many farms across Wales and the UK.’’

A fact-sheet was produced at the end of the project, which can be downloaded from the HCC website: http://hccmpw.org.uk/publications/farming_and_industry_development/sheep_management/