Saturday, 2 February 2013

Foot Trimming Trial Begins

A little while ago I posted a blog on whether or not we should be trimming sheep's feet when they have foot problems. Or whether we should only inject them with antibiotics and allow the hoot to repair itself after the infection has been cleared up.  The thought is that hoof trimming the over grown or rotting hoof removes a partial source of infection, allows the air to circulate the hoof and help dry it out.  The risk is that over-enthusiastic trimming can result in more damage to the hoof delaying the recovery time.  So we thought we would conduct a scientific experiment to find out whether recovery from foot problems is faster if the hoof is trimmed.
With the help of the EBVC we applied for funding through Sainsbury's R&D to explore this very vital aspect of research into a major problem, except we choose probably the coldest day of the winter to start!  Lame sheep obviously have a welfare issue in their mobility but this lameness will cause further problems.  If they are lame they are likely to have lower body condition, i.e. not carry so much weight and fat, this means they are more susceptible to disease and stress, less likely to get in lamb, have fewer lambs and actually more likely to die.  So it is a big problem not only for the sheep but the business as well. 
So what are we doing in the trial?  We have gathered in 34 of our sheep that are lame, each sheep was turned over so that the foot (or feet) could be inspected by Fiona, Phillipa and Tod.  The cause of the lameness was recorded and which foot it related to.  The ewes were scored according to their mobility and the severity of the foot problem.  We found ewes with scald, foot rot, CODD, Shelly Hoof, horizontal cracking, arthritis and a toe abscess, so each problem was recorded and a photograph taken of the offending hoof or foot.  Each ewe was given an injection of antibiotics and those with odd number ear tags had their feet trimmed as normal farm standard practise.  Trimming the odd numbered tagged sheep gave us a random method for trimming.
So my telephone is now filled up with sheep's feet photographs, having taken well over 50 photographs on the first run through with the ewes.  We also took a photo of the trimmed feet post trimming.  Each week for 5 weeks the same group of sheep are to be examined again, scored and photographed.  Who knows what the outcome will be but we are learning a lot about the causes and recovery time of lameness.  In time we'll find out whether it really is better to trim or not to trim to give the sheep the fastest possible recovery time.

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