Footrot: A Costly and Time Consuming Preventable Disease

Jul 16, 2020

Tara Jo Bina
Countryside Feed Livestock Nutrition
Hot, wet weather has many impacts on sheep and goats. Heat stress and flies are accompanied by footrot this time of year. This condition is costly and time consuming to treat, thankfully prevention is possible with proper management.
What is footrot?
Footrot is a bacterial infection of the soft interdigital space of the hoof (the space between the toes) and can occur in either pasture or dry lot settings. Often dry, hard ground from winter or dry summer conditions, cause some kind of “crack” or injury to the interdigital space that allows these bacteria into the soft tissue. When these areas are exposed to warm moist environments, ideal conditions for bacterial growth are created.
Once infected the interdigital space will be red and inflamed. Anyone who has touched an infected hoof will tell you the best way to identify a problem is the smell…it is not pleasant! Depending on the strains of bacteria causing the footrot, the damage can be to only the interdigital space (benign footrot) or it can infect the actual hard hooves (virulent footrot). Either way, footrot is very painful for animals causing lameness and a desire to constantly lay down. Reduced performance (growth, milk production, wool production, breeding, etc.), early culling, increased treatment time and costs, and lower salvage value for infected sheep and goats are commonly observed.
It is best to consult a trusted veterinarian to identify effective treatments for footrot. Severity of the disease may require different strategies. In severe cases, frequent foot baths may be prescribed to get rid of the infection.
  • Pen management: in dry lot settings, maintaining clean, dry pens is a great practice. Having a dry place to stand reduces the likelihood of developing footrot. Although keeping pens clean in the winter can be difficult, it is very important. Accumulated manure is a great breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Rotate animals out of pens where infections have occurred: Since the bacteria that cause footrot typically live in the soil, rotating animals off of contaminated pastures or dry lot pens to be cleaned can help prevent the spread of footrot.
  • Trim hooves: Maintaining healthy hooves year-round and looking for any damaged areas during regular hoof trimmings can help identify footrot early for treatment or identify animals that may be at higher risk due to an injury.
  • Vaccinate: Discuss vaccinations for footrot with your veterinarian. Developing immunity before an infection helps the animal better fight off the bacteria on their own.
  • Mineral program: Using a good mineral program throughout the year can help keep hooves healthy. Countryside Feed uses Avail-4® in sheep and goat minerals for the improvements in reproductive efficiency and hoof health.
Although footrot can be a major problem, it is preventable. Contact your Countryside Feed representative to discuss preventing hoof health problems!

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