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The infectious bacterial diseases, footrot and scald, are still the most prevalent causes of lameness in sheep flocks in the UK, with an estimated 3 million sheep being lame at any one time (Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) 2011). Lameness constitutes a major animal welfare and economic challenge across the sheep sector, costing an estimated £24 million to the industry (Nieuwhof and Bishop 2005), and can be seen as a considerable barrier to sustainable production. The 2011 FAWC opinion on sheep lameness set a target of reducing lameness to less than 5 per cent by 2016, and to less than 2 per cent by 2021 (FAWC 2011). The aim of this study was to develop and validate an achievable farm-level solution, the Five Point Plan, to reduce lameness levels to FAWC targets.
The Five Point Plan was developed using existing published science on sheep lameness, and practical experience from farmers who had achieved sustained low levels of lameness. The Five Point Plan has five action points that support the animal in three different ways: building resilience, reducing disease challenge and establishing immunity (Fig 1, Table 1). The Five Point Plan was then implemented on a UK sheep farm over a four-year study period (2009–2013). The …