“The sheep industry has made real progress with lameness over the last five years but must maintain momentum if it is to meet the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) target of 2 percent disease incidence in the national flock by 2021,” says Dr Ruth Clements, head of veterinary programmes at farm-based research and development organisation FAI Farms, which developed the Five-Point Plan.
“Implemented correctly and given long term commitment, the Five-Point Plan gives sheep farmers a clear framework for managing lameness effectively because it builds natural disease resilience within the flock, reduces the disease challenge and spread on the farm, and improves flock immunity through vaccination. More widespread adoption on farm will also help the sheep sector cut its use of antibiotics for foot infections and meet new industry targets; a sheep sector task force facilitated by RUMA has already signed up to a 10 percent reduction in antibiotic use by 2020,” Dr Clements adds.
Dr Clements says sheep farmers are generally keen to get on top of any flock lameness issues, but sometimes feel helpless and often find it difficult to know how and where to start.
“Now’s the time to start thinking about it seriously,” she says. “Weaning is an ideal time to cull out any ewes with chronic feet, re-set the breeding flock for the new sheep year and build from there.”
Farmers looking for practical advice on how to take the first step towards reducing sheep lameness in their own flock will be able to visit the MSD Animal Health stands at the NSA Sheep Event (July 18) in Malvern and the Royal Welsh Show (July 22-26) in Builth Wells. During July and beyond, sheep producers should ask their vet or SQP at their local animal health product supplier for guidance and support with implementing the Five-Point Plan.