Sheep producers are being encouraged to adopt a five point plant to reduce lameness.

“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,” said Dr Ruth Clements, head of veterinary programmes at farm-based research and development organisation FAI Farms, which developed the 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.

“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.”