Diseases that cause lameness in sheep: shelly hoof

Find out how to look for cases of shelly hoof and treat it effectively if it occurs.

Back to: Reducing lameness in sheep


  • The wall and toe horn separate to form a pocket 
  • Sheep may not appear lame unless walking on impacted soil or hard ground 
  • Shelly hoof will expose affected animals to secondary diseases


The cause of shelly hoof has not been identified. However, associations with damage from rough or wet ground, stony standings or nutritional imbalance have been implicated. It is more common at low stocking densities, in flocks with high levels of scald and footrot and where formalin foot-baths are used. Double-check that it is shelly hoof and not footrot.


If lame, remove the loose horn flap, remove stones/thorns and treat as white line disease.


There is no proven method of prevention. Check that the mineral/vitamin balance in diet is correct and adjust accordingly. Avoid walking sheep on stony or irregular ground.

Useful links

Lameness in sheep: the five-point plan

Reducing lameness in sheep