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Beyond the Bale : March 2016
ON FARM 35 “At the end of autumn we thought we had it beat – we hadn’t found any new cases, but we still had a small ‘active’ mob, which had been the treated animals we now considered clean.” Shelley’s cautionary approach paid off as the ‘active’ mob broke down in late November 2013. In January 2014 all sheep in the other mobs were inspected and found to be clean. “After that point we didn’t foot bath the clean ones again – we thought they were clean and if we were wrong we wanted the footrot to express itself.” Shelley treated the dirty mob again, but eased back on the foot bathing to allow any footrot to express itself. “We culled the few with lesion score of 4 or more and treated the remaining with score 1 and 2,” Shelley explained. “We have been clean and free of footrot since March 2014.” KEYS TO SUCCESS According to Shelley, footrot is the most challenging animal health issue she and Chris have had to manage to date. “It is so disheartening to see it breakout in what was thought to be clean mobs,” Shelley said. “Eradication takes time, cost and dedication to detail. “It is important to identify the disease and respond quickly. You need to know what you are looking for and ensure you keep clean sheep separate.” Whether you embark on eradication or a control program depends on the time of year and your own enterprise goals, according to Shelley. “Control is worthwhile, although treating is difficult,” she said. “When we had the outbreak the second year we kept a dirty mob and colour coded affected sheep. Anything that had been treated in the dirty mob was raddled so we could identify any escapees. Anything that didn’t respond to treatment was culled.” Despite the expense and effort Shelley would take the same approach again. “We would do the same thing because of the small flock size and focus of our enterprise – our genetic gains have been so great and we have so few animals out there for our niche market and to our mind they were worth the work and expense.” Shelley admits that setting themselves up so they could carry out their own inspections was critical. ONGOING VIGILANCE Although they have seen no sign of footrot since early 2014, Shelley remains vigilant about monitoring their boundary fences and as soon as she finds neighbouring strays they are caught and inspected for any signs of disease (including footrot, lice and ill thrift). “Fortunately stock straying onto our property since the outbreak has been during summer when it is dry. We always check any stray animals and sheep limping in the flock,” Shelley said. “We also try to avoid dams and have established troughs as watering points in as many paddocks as possible to avoid muddy conditions, which can harbour footrot bacteria.” According to Shelley the other useful tool was to have a pictorial guide to footrot scores: “sometimes early stage footrot is difficult to identify and to have a pictorial reference is really useful.” MORE INFORMATION A range of 11 factsheets on footrot – which outline the disease’s cause, symptoms, treatment, management and eradication options – has been developed by Sheep Connect Tasmania as part of a collaborative project with DPIPWE, funded by AWI. The full range of factsheets is also available as a handy ute guide, featuring stories from two Tasmanian producers who have overcome the challenges of footrot using slightly different approaches. Visit www.sheepconnecttas.com.au to download the resources. FOOTROT: KEY POINTS • Virulent footrot can cause significant production loss in affected flocks. • Foot paring and/or footbathing or antibiotic treatment can reduce the prevalence, and, if followed by repeated foot inspections and culling of high risk sheep during a non-transmission period, are the keys to get eradication. • Careful eradication inspections are absolutely critical to the success of any footrot eradication program. • A thorough inspection technique is essential to ensure every last foot is inspected, all sheep infected with virulent footrot are identified and appropriate measures are taken in a timely manner. • Sheep handling equipment will reduce operator fatigue and increase handling efficiencies. • Ongoing flock monitoring and on-farm biosecurity are critical to keeping footrot at bay post eradication. 1 Sheep Connect Tasmania Connecting people in the sheep business Overview Key messages ● Footrot is a serious and highly-contagious disease of sheep and goats spread by the Dichelobacter nodosus bacterium. ● Under suitable environmental conditions (moist and warm) virulent strains of the D. nodosus bacteria can penetrate and infect the skin between the toes leading to severe pain and lameness. ● Discharge from the feet of infected animals spreads to the feet of previously unaffected animals via moist, infected pasture, muddy yards and laneways. ● Footrot has significant impacts on enterprise productivity and profitability, as well as animal and human welfare. ● The key to management is early detection and treatment. overview Sheep Connect Tasmania Footrot A guide to identification and control in the field www.sheepconnecttas.com.au The ute guide to support tactical footrot management is available from AWI’s Sheep Connect Tasmania network. Well-designed sheep handling equipment can ease the load of eradication inspections, reducing operator fatigue and increasing handling efficiencies. PHOTO: James Tyson
In the Shops - March 2016