Monday, 22 October 2012
To Trim or Not To Trim? That is The Question!
On Thursday the 18th October we hosted a Sainsburys Lamb Development Group, flock health planning session on lameness in sheep. The UK sheep flock has an estimated 10% lameness in it, which costs the industry over £24 million/year! This is a huge amount of lost income to sheep farmers so we wanted to know where this money is being lost and what we can do to increase the welfare of our flocks. A healthy sheep is a happy one that will be be more productive, cost less to run and be more efficient, this will also help our carbon footprint! So how do lame sheep loose so much money? A lame sheep is a source of infection that can very quickly spread the bacteria around the rest of the sheep, multiplying the problem especially at housing or any type of gathering. The ewe is less likely to keep body condition and therefore unlikely to have so many lambs, (there's some of our cash). Her lambs are likely to be smaller and weaker at birth, as mum can't get so much food due to competition from the other "fitter and healthier" ewes and is also unlikely to have so much and poorer quality colostrum. Things aren't looking good! These lambs are less likely to survive (due to poorer quality milk and lower birth weights) and therefore we have less lambs to sell. The ewe will also cost more in bought in feeds in order to keep her going.
There is lots we can do to reduce some of these problems and make the ewes and lambs more productive. Catching the ewes at the first sign of lameness is the key. In a very short space of time a limp can become footrot and with 5 days the hoof can be lifting off, making it painful for the ewe to walk about on and spread the bacteria far and wide for others to pick up especially during wet weather. Once caught, we should be giving an antibiotic containing penicillin, as this cures the problem, and not trimming the feet! The overgrown nails (hoof) would have been whipped off by every-one except Phillipa, Dan and Fiona (the vets) who said NO to trimming. The idea is that trimming risks passing the infection from hoof to hoof and a physical risk of cutting the soft flesh resulting in more discomfort and a longer recovery period. We're going to get them back in shortly to see whether the NO trim policy has worked. The sheep should in theory get back on their feet (no pun intended) and by walking on it the excess hoof will fall away, we shall see.
After treatment the details were logged on the scanner so that we can check up on their recovery and if they are repeat offenders then I'm afraid they will have to be culled out. It really was a great day and a huge thanks to Fiona and Dan from the Evidence Based Veterinary Consultancy who really showed us what we should all be doing. I think everyone in the room learned something!