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Lameness in lambs: questions around joint ill
  1. Robin A. J. Nicholas, PhD, FRCPath1 and
  2. Guido R. Loria, DVM, PhD2
  1. 1Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Woodham Lane, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB, UK
  2. 2Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Sicilia, Via Gino Marinuzzi, 3-90129 Palermo, Italy
  1. e-mail: robin.nicholas{at}

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LAMENESS has been identified as one of the major welfare problems in sheep in Britain, affecting over 90 per cent of flocks. The on-farm incidence has been estimated to be about 10 per cent (Defra 2003) and the condition negatively affects the production potential of the animal. While the major causes of lameness are footrot and scald (responsible for just over 80 per cent of cases and both involving Fusobacterium necrophorum), there are also non-infectious causes such as post-dipping lameness and soil balling, which are significant contributors to the problem. Of course, for practitioners, it is worth remembering that lameness is often the presenting sign of foot-and-mouth disease and also bluetongue, where it is the result of inflammation of the skin above the hoof.

In Mediterranean countries, large parts of Asia (most notably Mongolia and Iran) and wherever traditional manual milking is practised, contagious agalactia, caused by Mycoplasma agalactiae, represents a major impediment to meat and milk production (Nicholas and others 2008). Arthritis is a chronic sequel to mastitis and affects lambs and ewes equally. Fortunately, there is a relatively low risk of this disease, known as the ‘shepherd's nightmare’ in areas in southern Europe where it is …

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