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Tackling lameness in sheep and evaluating progress
  1. Ruth Clements, BSc, BVM&S, MRCVS
  1. FAI Farms, The Field Station, Wytham, Oxfordshire OX2 8QJ, UK
  1. e-mail: ruth.clements{at}

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LAMENESS constitutes a significant animal welfare and economic challenge across the sheep sector, with many farmers still struggling to control disease in their flocks and spending substantial periods of time catching and treating lame sheep.

Although exact lameness figures for the UK are not available, farm experience and various studies have shown that lameness is a significant issue on many farms, with some struggling with a prevalence of over 10 per cent with seasonal peaks of up to or above 20 per cent (Grogono-Thomas and Johnston 1997, Wassink and others 2004, Nieuwhof and Bishop 2005, Kaler and Green 2008). It is estimated that 3 million sheep are lame at any one time in the UK, and it is possible that 6 to 9 million become lame over the course of a year (FAWC 2011).

The infectious bacterial diseases footrot and scald, which are caused by Dichelobacter nodosus, are still the most prevalent causes of lameness in UK sheep flocks, representing 90 per cent of foot lameness and being present in 97 per cent of flocks. The more recently described disease, contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD), is present on about 35 to 53 per cent of sheep farms in …

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