Lameness in sheep: the five-point plan – cull and quarantine

Find out when to cull, or when to quarantine, infected sheep to reduce the spread of disease. 

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Cull – build resilience

Lame ewes spread disease to other ewes and lambs. Sheep that have suffered severe or repeated bouts of lameness can develop chronically infected and misshapen feet. These animals act as a constant source of infection, making other control measures ineffective. They should be removed from the flock.

When to cull

It can be difficult to cull ewes that are apparently productive. However, culling hard in the first year will boost overall resilience levels in the flock and reduce the amount of disease that is spread.  

Identify repeat offenders, use cull tags or electronic identification (EID). Be tough – two strikes in one season and then cull. 

Quarantine – reduce disease

When purchasing ewes, rams or replacements, ensure their health status is known. Even the finest pen of animals might bring new infection to the farm that could threaten existing stock. A sound biosecurity programme can minimise the risk.  

Any sheep brought onto the holding that has – at any time – been in contact with other sheep on farm must be quarantined (even if returning from a show) to prevent the introduction of different strains of footrot and contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD). 

Any brought-in sheep must be considered as being at risk and should be quarantined for a minimum of 28 days. The sheep should be foot-bathed, in either 10% zinc sulphate or 3% formalin, every five days on three occasions.  

Check for lameness and transport safely

  • Check every sheep to look for early signs of footrot or CODD  
  • Treat clinical cases quickly 
  • If you suspect CODD, contact your vet for specific treatment advice 
  • Do not accept stock that are lame or that have chronically misshapen feet 
  • Ideally purchase all replacements from an individual flock and transport directly from origin to the new premises 
  • Ideally, visit potential purchases and inspect their feet. This prevents other diseases from being picked up 
  • Ensure the transport vehicle is properly cleansed and disinfected 
  • Avoid sharing transport vehicles and mixing stock from different sources. Where possible, move sheep in the farm’s own transport vehicles  
  • When treating lame sheep in the flock, whenever possible, segregate out the lame animals to prevent spread between the sheep 
  • Keep sheep separate until fully recovered 

Only buy from sources that take a proactive approach to tackling lameness. Decide on a quarantine procedure with the vet  and stick to it. 

Useful links

Diseases that cause lameness in sheep

Reducing lameness in sheep