Sheep are notorious for having bad feet and lambing season is certainly no different. Every month or so we foot bath our sheep and with lambs on the way a pedicure was due!
Ahead of lambing we bring our ewes into the poly tunnel. Although we try to keep them outside as long as possible this year the terribly wet weather has meant we have bought the first bunch in earlier than planned. The reason we bring them is to make sure we can monitor them during he last few weeks of pregnancy and give them extra food to make sure they are strong and healthy for birth.
Being outside in wet boggy fields isn’t great for lameness but neither is the poly tunnel. Lameness in everyday terms is basically a foot infection. You can get it in cows, sheep, horses, pretty much any animal so you have probably heard the term mentioned before. What causes the infections- oh well, a whole host of things but basically its different bacteria! The bacteria gets into the feet and then the warm wet conditions mean they thrive and multiply very quickly.
Being in the poly tunnel is a breeding ground for bacteria. Although its drier than the muddy fields outside, the plastic sheeting means its humid and all the sheep are walking on the same ground- ideal conditions.
There are three things we do to combat lameness. Firstly is prevention- we use a lime powder, this is sprinkled on the ground and helps prevent the spread and growth of bacteria in the first place. Secondly its treatment. We trim the sheep feet- a bit like cutting your nails, and we use a foot bath. This is a bit like a foot spa- but not so fancy. It’s a big metal trough that is filled with an antibacterial wash. The sheep walk through the bath and the wash not only kills current bacteria but also forms a barrier to help fight of bacteria over the coming weeks.
With the lambs due in a couple of weeks it’s important that the ewes get their feet treated so they are in the best possible health for the birth. The process is very calm and the sheep are left to do what they do naturally and follow each other through the bath.
I managed to get a video that demonstrates the process: