Diseases that cause lameness in sheep: scald

Find out how to identify, prevent and treat scald.

Back to: Reducing lameness in sheep

Cause

Scald is caused by the bacterium Dichelobacter nodosus, which also causes severe footrot. 

Infection occurs through skin damaged by:

  • Abrasion; for example, harsh or rough pastures, thorns, thistles, hedge trimmings or stubble
  • Prolonged exposure to moisture, causing softening of the skin 

Diagram of scald on a sheep's foot

Scald is more likely to occur when sheep are at high stocking densities – including when ewes are with lambs. Transmission is more likely in areas where sheep gather; for example, at feed troughs, favoured areas of a field or in housing.

Treatment

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Where incidence is high, foot-bathe the group and move to pasture that has been sheep-free for two weeks, if this is possible.

Prevention

Farmers have found that controlling footrot in ewes reduces scald level in lambs. If done properly, regular foot-bathing can help to prevent and control spring epidemics in lambs. 

  • Use a foot-bath as soon as lambs are large enough to go through it; this may help to minimise the number of lame sheep once the outbreak has started
  • Make sure that feet are as clean as possible before foot-bathing. Use the correct concentration of chemicals and stand the sheep in the foot-bath for the correct length of time (see product label)
  • To be effective, sheep must stand on a clean, dry, hard area for 30 minutes after foot-bathing. Where possible, return the group to new pasture
  • Avoid putting lambs on areas that are heavily contaminated with faeces 
  • Reducing the number and duration of handling events and improving underfoot conditions wherever possible can reduce the spread 
  • Apply suitable disinfectant around creep feeders, water troughs and gateways

Useful links

Lameness in sheep: the five-point plan

Reducing lameness in sheep

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