Keep An Eye Out For Lameness In Your Sheep

If you spy lameness or limping in one of your flock's sheep, it's important to figure out what's going on and address the issue immediately.

by Jana Wilson
PHOTO: Patrik Stedrak/Adobe Stock

As a sheep owner, it’s not uncommon to encounter the occasional limping member of your flock. Lameness in sheep can be caused by various diseases or issues with their hooves. Understanding and addressing these problems promptly is really essential for maintaining the overall health and well-being of your entire flock. 

Identify the Issue 

When you notice a sheep limping, it’s crucial to separate it from the rest of the flock and conduct a thorough examination. Begin by assessing the state of the hoof. Is it overgrown? In some cases, simply trimming the hoof can solve the problem.

Additionally, consider the moisture level. Extended periods of wetness, especially after rainfall, can contribute to hoof problems. 

Foot Rot & Foot Scald 

Foot rot and foot scald are two common hoof conditions that affect sheep. Warmth, mud and poor sanitation create an environment that can cause these diseases.

Foot rot is characterized by inflamed, red skin between the toes; a foul odor; and detachment of the hoof wall from the horn. Foot scald, on the other hand, is a more benign condition with redness between the toes without more severe symptoms. 

For both foot rot and foot scald, you can try similar treatment. A 10 percent zinc sulfate solution can be used as a footbath, in which the sheep are stood for up to 15 minutes every five to seven days. Copper sulfate is another alternative for footbaths. Additionally, I’ve used products like Hoof ‘N Heel and found it effective in treating hoof rot and scald.  

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Read more: Have questions about trimming your sheep’s hooves? We have answers here!

Importance of Trimming 

Regular hoof trimming is a simple—yet vital—practice in maintaining healthy hooves for your sheep. By inspecting and trimming hooves on a routine basis, you can prevent potential issues from coming up.

For instance, I’ve had a ewe come up limping and a simple stick lodged between the toes of her overgrown hoof was the cause. A sharp hoof trimmer, readily available at farm supply stores, is the primary tool you need for this task.

By taking the time to trim and clean hooves, you can alleviate discomfort and restore mobility to your sheep. 

Prevention Is Key 

In addition to proper hoof care, ensuring good nutrition and maintaining clean and dry living conditions for your sheep really contributes to hoof health. Providing a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements helps strengthen their immune system and promotes overall well-being.

Don’t forget to regularly inspect your pasture, barn or paddock for dampness. Cleaning any soiled areas can help prevent the development and spread of hoof-related diseases. 

Read more: When (and how) should you give your sheep a hoof trim?

When All Else Fails, Call the Vet 

Proactive measures and basic treatments can address many hoof issues … but it’s important not to ignore persistent or severe cases of lameness. If you can’t identify the cause or if the problem persists despite your efforts, don’t hesitate to contact a veterinarian.

Vets have the expertise and experience to diagnose and treat more complex hoof conditions and can help identify any underlying health issues within your flock. 

Lameness in sheep is a common problem that requires prompt attention. By understanding the common hoof conditions, doing regular hoof trimming, and maintaining suitable living conditions, you can keep your flock healthy and mobile. Remember, the well-being of your sheep depends on your vigilance. By prioritizing hoof health, you’re ensuring the overall vitality and productivity of your entire flock. 

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