Biosecurity is a concern for livestock producers, including sheep producers, regardless of the size of their flock. Shepherds tend to buy diseases, Dr. Clifford Shipley said during the Sheep Day program hosted by the Illinois Lamb and Wool Producers. He encouraged producers to screen animals before buying them.
In addition, the veterinarian and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, also cautioned shepherds who exhibit animals at shows. He advised putting sheep that have been at shows in isolation for two to four weeks, since he has seen people take animals to a show, come home and infect the rest of the flock.
Foot rot is Shipley’s least favorite disease, and an eradication program should be the goal for every producer, he advised. An eradication program will pay for itself, the veterinarian said, since foot rot is the No. 1 economic loss disease for sheep producers.
To eradicate foot rot from a flock, the pastures must be clean, and this can be accomplished by keeping sheep out of a pasture for 10 to 14 days.
This organism only lives off the foot for about 10 days, so by having animals out of a pasture for a minimum of 10 days, the pastures are clean, the veterinarian said.
Trimming the feet is important, and during this process, shepherds should make sure they clean out all the little pockets in the hooves. In addition, the sheep need to have their feet soaked in a zinc sulfate foot bath for 10 to 30 minutes. By trimming the feet, soaking the feet and putting the sheep on clean pastures, shepherds can eliminate foot rot from their flocks.
And, Shipley advised, if there are some sheep that don’t respond well to foot rot treatment, it might be best to cull those animals from the flock.
Parasites are another challenge for sheep producers. Shipley noted that about 20% of the animals have 80% of the worms. If you target and cull these animals, eventually you should reduce the parasite problem in a flock, he said.
However, some of the parasites go through four or five lifecycles, so it is important to continue to focus on them and don’t give up. Clean pastures, rotational grazing, strategic deworming and culling based on records are all strategies that will help address parasite problems.
Reducing disease should be a goal for all livestock producers for many reasons, including the fact that if you are not dealing with diseases, there is more time to work with the animals. And, of course, you don’t have to spend money on the medicines.