Getting to Grips with the Challenge of Scald

Possibly the only downside to the tremendous grass growing conditions that now pertain right across Northern Ireland is the greater predisposition of lambs and ewes to foot scald. The condition, a precursor of Foot Rot, is a direct consequence of sheep constantly walking on wet ground. Denver McCall, who runs a four hundred strong flock of mostly Suffolk cross ewes near Armagh, takes up the story.

“I can’t believe the difference that twelve months can make. This time last year we had no grass, so we had no option but to feed quite high levels of meal to the sheep. In total contrast, however, 2014 has been the best grass year in living memory. Our ewes have plenty of milk and their lambs are thriving accordingly. Daily liveweight gains have been excellent and the fact that we are getting all of this growth from grazed grass is keeping our costs at very reasonable levels.
Denver continued:

“The only problem that we have run into is a higher than normal level of Scald, particularly with the lambs. But it is quite easily dealt with, simply by running the sheep through the footbath every time they are handled. Between drenching and clipping, we can manage to get them treated once a month at this time of the year.”
Denver continued:

“If I see even a couple of sheep within the flock limping slightly, that entire group will be foot bathed. It is also important to ensure that the active ingredient within the solution is given every chance to work. In order to help that process, we gather all the sheep in a dry area for few minutes after they come through the bath, before being put back to the field. Alternatively, we let the animals stand for a few minutes on the wire mesh floor in the sheep shed.

“A single pass through the footbath keeps most scald problems at bay. However, the odd animal may require a second treatment within seven days, if limping persists. As a matter of policy, we very rarely pare sheep’s feet, as this only spreads the bacteria that cause Scald and Foot Rot.
As a matter of routine, Denver uses Hoofsure Endurance, manufactured by Provita, as the active agent in his footbath solution. Tommy Armstrong, from the Omagh-based company was a recent visitor to the McCall farm. He confirmed that the incidence of Scald is on the increase within local sheep flocks at the present time and added:

“This is a direct result of the warm, damp conditions that have been so prevalent over recent weeks. Grass growth rates have been excellent. And in many cases swards have managed to get ahead of the sheep.  The longer grass then acts to create skin lesions in the hoof area, with the result that the Scald causing bacteria in the soil can invade the surrounding soft tissue.”

Tommy then went on to highlight the range of products now available from Provita to allow flock owners to tackle the problem of Scald. In addition to Hoofsure Endurance, which is used as a footbath solution, the company has developed Hoofsure Konquest Gel and Hoofsure Combat Spray, which can be used to treat Scald problems in individual sheep.