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Control foot rot and say good-bye to routine trimming

Eblex and Grassland Challenge have recently hosted a series of workshops in Devon and Cornwall for farmers, to discuss the latest developments on the subject of resistance and control of worms and foot rot in sheep.

In the UK, there is a general emphasis on the treatment rather than prevention of internal parasites and foot rot. At the evening workshops, Gert Nieuwhof, Senior Geneticist at MLC discussed the progress of selection for disease resistance. We know selection for production works so why not with diseases such as worms or foot rot? In New Zealand a selection experiment has been conducted since 1979 actively selecting sheep with low FEC (Faecal Egg Count) breeding values. The resulting resistance to internal parasites has varied depending on the age of the lambs. At 6 months, resistant lambs have been found to have up to 50% greater immunity than susceptible ones. Although as expected, by 14 months the benefit was reduced to only 20% as natural immunity increases as lambs are exposed to internal parasites.

Also in NZ, a programme of continued culling of animals with foot rot from progeny from a single Corriedale ram since 1967 has indicated more than 15% less infection than the control groups. Eblex has recently set-up the 'Foot Rot Genetics Project', a 3-year project with SAC, Roslin, Lincoln University, MLC, University of Melbourne and GB breeders. The aim of the project is to find genetic markers for resistance to foot rot. Farmers attending the workshops were asked if they would like to take part in the project.

Roger Brown and Paul Williams from Schering Plough Animal Health stressed that with lameness costing an estimated extra £6.50 per ewe per year (lower lambing percentage, increased treatment and replacement rate), prevention is better than cure. The correct diagnosis of lameness is vital to obtain optimum control. Treatment of individual sheep will never control foot rot in a flock because each sheep will be at a different stage of the disease and although not lame they may be harbouring infection. The farmers were told that they must develop a coordinated whole flock approach incorporating foot-bathing, trimming when necessary (it is no longer considered good practice to routinely trim sheep feet), use of antibiotics and /or vaccination into a 6-8 week programme. The fact that bacteria causing foot rot only survives on pasture for up to 10 days gives the whole flock approach a good opportunity for control.

But how much of your flock needs to be affected to make different control methods cost effective? Peter Morris, deputy chief executive, NSA, introduced a new practical tool for producers which will calculate the risk and cost implications of foot rot and scald. The calculator has three input and three output sections. The input sections are: farm details covering flock size; lambing percentage and information on lambs sold; the severity of foot rot and scald in the flock; details of the control method chosen such as vaccination, foot bathing and antibiotics. The output sections show: costs and impacts before control; cost and impact after control and final disease cost values. This calculator is currently being developed and tested with farmers.

Rams with increased resistance to worms do exist and can save money and labour. With further research into breeding, we may be able to select for foot rot resistance in the same way. In the meantime farmers will be able to use developments such as the calculator tool to choose the best whole flock approach to reduce foot rot and scald and say goodbye to routine foot trimming.

Grassland Challenge, in partnership with Cornwall Quality Livestock Producers (CQLP) and Eblex, are hosting a free seminar to discuss the opportunities following the changes to the Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS) on Tuesday 13 December 2005 at the Crossroads Lodge, Scorrier, Redruth.

Peter Bayliss, general manager CQLP, will discuss the market for older beef in light of the restructuring of the Over Thirty Months Scheme including farm assurance requirements, demand and outlets. He will also discuss the buyer's view, outlining the requirements of the abattoir sector for cows. Nik Bertholdt, Duchy College, will consider the nutritional requirements and the economics of finishing cows to achieve market requirements. The seminar will end with an open discussion with the panel.

Anyone interested in attending this free event, should contact Grassland Challenge on (01579) 372295 as numbers are limited. Bookings will operate on a first come, first served basis and a buffet supper will be provided.

For further information please contact Kate Allingham on 01579 372296.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Grassland Challenge Project through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

Anyone considering a new horticulture, food and land based industries project is advised to speak with Maria Ford, at Government Office South West - 01752 635015 - before commencing development as there are now only limited funds available due to the successful uptake of funding by the agricultural sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.


Editor's notes:


Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

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