Saturday, August 11, 2012

Good sheep and goat foot health: important for a profitable animal enterprise


by Tom Settlemire, PhD
Professor emeritus, Bowdoin College
Brunswick, Maine

A USDA SARE project to help producers understand how to prevent footrot and a protocol, if infected, that will eliminating the disease from their flock and herd.
In 2010, USDA Northeast SARE awarded a research and education grant to a team of researchers headed by project coordinator, Dr. Richard Brzozowski, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, entitled " Eliminating the effects of footrot on sheep flocks in the Northeast". Other workers directing the work include: Dr. Anne Lichtenwalner - University of Maine. Dr. Charles Parker- The Ohio State University-retired, Susan Schoenian - Universtiy of Maryland and Dr. Tom Settlemire-Bowdoin College- retired, Since then the team has learned a great deal about foot health primarily working with sheep but also with some goats. The objectives of the project are to educate producers about the disease, provide information on how to prevent the disease, to create a protocol to eliminate the disease on individual farms and more recently to become part of an effort to identify DNA markers for footrot resistant animals that could would allow genetic selection to be part of the prevention of the disease. A summary of the disease and our work so far is included here. The link to all project information is: Sheep Foot Health Research & Education
The health of a flock has a major impact on the profitability of an animal enterprise. One of the major health challenges for sheep and goat producers not only in the United States but worldwide is a bacterial disease of the hoof called footrot. It is a highly contagious disease, which leads to lameness and general stress, which will decrease productivity, and cause producers to spend unneeded time and money fighting the disease. Lame sheep graze poorly, gain slowly and are less likely to conceive. The complications of the disease are serious and have caused many producers to go out of business.
There are more than one hoof infections processes that challenge sheep and goats. The first is a much less serious disease and is caused by two bacteria commonly found in soils. These two organisms (Fusobacterrium necrophorum & Actinomyces pyrogenes) can infect the hoof commonly when soil conditions are wet. These two organisms cause a mild inflammation of the space between the toes - the infection only involves skin and does not invade the hoof hard tissue. This milder form of infection is called "foot scold".
The much more serious foot health problem is caused by a bacterium called Dicheleibacter nodosus . This bacterium releases an enzyme that causes rapid breakdown of the hard hoof tissue, resulting a more extensive destruction of the hoof, a very telltale foul smell and serious lameness, which can completely immobilize animals. This bacterium is not commonly found in soil - and in fact can only live for approximately two weeks outside an animal. This is the disease called "footrot". There are many different strains of this bacterium making it difficult to use vaccination programs in a preventive or treatment program.
So how does a flock or herd get infected with footrot if the organism is not commonly found in soil? The organism is brought to the farm!! You bring an infected animal to mix with your animals, you haul some of your animals in a truck/trailer, which has concurrently, or recently hauled infected animals, you have visitors or you yourself have visited a farm with the infection and bring dirt/manure on your boots/clothes with infected bacteria back to your farm. In other words you only get the disease by somehow bringing or exposing infected animals or material to your animals and/or farm!!
All of this points to the importance of a good flock and herd security plan. You can create your own plan and keep footrot off your farm. There are some excellent helps to guide you (type "biosecurity" in the search window at the top of this site) and information pulled together by our project: Biosecurity.
As the saying goes "prevention is 90% of the cure"-or something like that -in this case it is 100%.
But we know unfortunately the world it is not perfect. What can we do if your flock or herd becomes infected? As part of this project we have created a protocol (the protocol is included as a separate document) that has been shown to eliminate the disease over a 4-week period. It requires a series of important steps that are crucial including: (more detail and a step-by-step protocol is included in a separate document -the protocol used in our research can be found at:Apply to Participate - click on "protocol" part way down the page.)
1.Correct and complete hoof trimming- I had trimmed feet for over 50 years but have now learned that I was only doing part of the job. Careful trimming to not only remove outer excess growth around out side of hoof but also cleaning and trimming to a clean base the area between the toes (the interdigital space) is crucial. Eliminating "pockets", areas of abnormal hoof growth that can hide and harbor bacteria is also crucial.
2.Scoring each hoof as to health - we have created a scorecard which can be found on the project website at: Foot Score Record Sheet.

The scoring process is important - a part of this protocol is to not only treat animals infected but also to identify "carriers" - these are animals with extensive abnormal hoof structure that have pockets that cannot be trimmed away or continue persistent infection over the 4-week protocol period. These identified carriers must be culled to eliminate the disease.
3.At the start of the protocol after trimming and scoring, have each animal soak their hoofs in a 10% solution of zinc sulfate (8.5 pounds of zinc sulfate/ 10 gallons of water) containing a detergent, and separating all infected animals from non-infected animals.
4.At the end of the 4-week protocol there will be as many as 5-10% that will either still show infection or abnormal foot structure (pockets)- TO ELIMINATE THE DISEASE THESE ANIMALS MUST BE CULLED. IF NOT YOU WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP THE DISEASE ON YOUR FARM. CULLING IS AN ESSENTIAL STEP.
There is evidence building that there is a genetic component to the disease and some animals may have a genetic based ability to resist infection by the organism that causes footrot. Therefore keeping records of animals that were not infected in an environment where the disease was found might prove useful as a tool when selecting breeding stock- work on this aspect of the study is still underway. We are also examining the possible correlation of resistants to footrot infection to other animal diseases with the idea that some animals may genetically in fact be better able to resist a range of diseases. Again this work is in the early stages of study.
For the detailed the protocol used in our research go to: Apply to Participate - click on "protocol" part way down the page.). A version of the protocol that can be used by producers is provided here as well.
In summary animal foot health is an important part of our animal husbandry work. It deserves a proactive efforts via a farm biosecurity plan to keep footrot from our farms. If however, footrot infection does happen we have created a protocol that has been proven to eliminate the disease. If you have interest in learning more about the project or have questions go to the project web site: Sheep Foot Health Research & Education or email me : Tom Settlemire, PhD
Foot Health Protocol
This is a protocol based on "Sheep Foot Health Farm Protocol" used in the USDA SARE project "Eliminating the effects of footrot on the sheep flocks in the Northeast. The full description of the project can be found at: Sheep Foot Health Research & Education
The purpose of this protocol is to eliminate footrot infections within sheep flocks and goat herds. This is an "producer managed" protocol which if followed in detail has been shown to be an effective way to eliminate footrot on farms with sheep and goats. The full protocol used in the research program can be found at: Apply to Participate and click on "protocol" part way down the page.
All animals on the farm must be included. It is important to organize a facility/work area where animals can be confined and each animal caught, examined, trimmed, feet soaked and sorted. A working chute put together with gates, etc is an excellent way to accomplish this task. Over the next 4 weeks, it is important to maintain the scheduled 7-day interval of interaction with the sheep to prevent lateral transmission of infection. Block off time in your calendar for this to take place.

Day 0 (first day)

1.Animals are collected, feet trimmed (IT IS IMPORTANT TO LEARN CORRECT FOOT TRIMMING). A very useful video is available to show proper trimming: Foot Trimming
2.It is important to score each hoof for health - infected or not infected and as well if the hoof shows unusual growth patterns (has "pockets" as opposed to a smooth hoof surface). A score sheet is available: Score Sheet
3.Each animal must then be placed is a 10% zinc sulfate solutions (8.5 # zinc sulfate/ 10 gallons of water- add 1 cup washing detergent to improve effectiveness) for 5 minutes.
Footbath troughs can be purchased commercially or made from plywood and 2' x 6' material- making sure all joints are water tight using a good adhesive. Foot troughs filled with old wool or shavings to prevent splashing will save zinc solution and make the bath more effective. The footbath should be cleaned and recharged after 100 or so animals have moved through the bath. After the footbath, treated animals are separated into either the (1) Healthy, Infection Free group or (2) Recovery group.
4.As the animals leave the footbath, each group will go to a separate "drying area" -hard wooden floor or clean, concrete floor or well bedded barn areas for 30 minutes.
5.For the success of the protocol it is important that each group be moved after drying to a separate area where sheep have not been for two weeks (the length of time the causative bacteria of footrot can live outside an animal).

Day 7

1.Each sheep will be treated in a footbath (no trimming normally needed) as described at Day 0.
2.All sheep in the Healthy group are carefully observed and any animal limping is to be inspected and if infection found, move animal to Recovery Group.

Day 14

1.All sheep will be confined and each hoof scored and recorded. Check to see if further hoof trimming is needed. Animals in the Recovery Group that show no signs of infection and no abnormal (pockets) structure can be moved to Healthy group. Likewise any animals in healthy group showing any infection must be moved to Recovery group.
2.All sheep will be treated in foot bath-drying area procedure as described at Day 0 and the Healthy and Recovery groups moved to separate clean areas.

Day 21

1.All sheep will be treated in a footbath - drying area procedure as described.
2.Observe all sheep in the Healthy group and any limpers checked for infection and moved to Recovery group.

Day 28

1.All animals will be confined and all feet scored. Animals that have not healed or have abnormal foot structure (pockets- hoof surface not smooth and flat) should be separated and culled. At the end of the 4 weeks of treatment the combination of proper trimming, zinc sulfate treatment and use of clean areas will allow all sheep except carriers to heal and grow proper hoof structure. CULLING IS AN IMPORTANT STEP IN FINISHING YOUR EFFORT TO CREATE A FOOT HEALTH FLOCK OR HERD.
Your efforts will create a healthier flock or herd that will be more productive and valuable - and will make your life managing your animals much easier! Congratulations!!!

Contact the research team at:
Sheep Footrot Research Project
c/o Richard Brzozowski
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
75 Clearwater Drive
Falmouth, Maine 04105

Sharpening and Repairs Department
The shipping department
Back row - Dennis, Erik, Greg, Frank, Ellis. Front row - Jacque, Danny and Mandy.
This month's featured department is Sharpening and Repairs. With fair season upon us, the sharpening and repair folks have been working diligently on sharpening combs, cutters and blades and servicing motors.

Mandy receives incoming sharpening and repair orders and distributes them. Danny, Erik and Ellis do the lion's share of the sharpening work. During the busy season, Danny comes in at 4:00 a.m. to sharpen the blades that arrived the night before. This allows the sharpening (lapping) machine to run for more than the normal 8 hours a day. Their efforts can transform dull shearing and clipping equipment to factory sharp (or better).

Frank and Dennis are the repair crew. Energizers, motors and miscellaneous items that are sent in for repair or service are quickly handled by these two. Dennis also puts in time doing fabrication and other odd jobs throughout the Premier facilities.

Jacque operates the laser machine that does the custom imprinting on blades and combs. She also runs the lapping machine when needed.

Greg helps in assembling clipping and shearing machines as well asPRS energizers .

We'd like to thank these folks for all the odd and extra hours they have been putting in to make sure everyone's clippers, shearers and energizers work!

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