Incidence and Characterization of Feedlot Lambs and Ewe Flock Lameness
Wiolene Nordi and Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein
Sheep production in Canada is increasing (one million head on 11,000 farms of which 2,000 farms are in Alberta), due to the growing demand for lamb meat by consumers over the last five years as a result of growing ethnic markets. Consequently, both ewe flocks and growing/finishing lamb feedlots have been increasing in number and size within Alberta to meet the demand for this growing market.
Lameness is a common cause of welfare and economic concern in most sheep producing countries. For example, prevalence of lameness in UK sheep farms has been reported to be between eight and 10 per cent with the main cause being, interdigital dermatitis, severe footrot, ovine digital dermatitis, and shelly hoof (Kaler and Green 2009*). In Alberta, we see lame sheep on farms, feedlots, auctions and pasture. At one time, there was a provincial footrot eradication program. Veterinary inspections, foot trimming and foot-soaking were standard annual procedures for the 20,000 plus sheep that headed to B.C. forestry reserves. Despite all the effort, time and money, lame sheep are still common.
Healthy foot vs foot affected with foot rot
Canadian sheep and lamb producers consider lameness a serious health and welfare issue, resulting in high culls rates of breeding stock, reduced ewe productivity, slow growth performance of feeder lambs, and high labor and treatment costs to manage these animals. Lameness has long contributed to reduced animal productivity. It is associated with pain and discomfort and results in modifications to the animal’s gait; thus, reducing feed intake and increasing weight loss, labour and drug costs. One of the current challenges is accurately identifying lameness and making a correct diagnosis. At this time, very little has been published on the prevalence, risk factors, causative agents, and cost of lameness in Canadian sheepLame feedlot sheep
Consequently, a two year study (2018-2020) funded by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, the Alberta Lamb Producers, Van Raay Paskal Farms and Canada Gold Beef and co-lead by Dr. Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dr. Doerte Döpfer from the University of Wisconsin is currently underway. The research team also includes Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed (Alberta Beef Health Solutions), Dr. Kathy Parker (Sheep Health Solutions), Dr. Sonia Marti (IRTA, Barcelona Spain) and Dr. Wiolene Nordi who is the postdoctoral fellow conducting the study. The main objectives of their research will be to 1) determine the relative occurrence of lameness in feedlot lambs and ewe flocks, 2) characterize the types of lameness observed, 3) identify causative agents associated with lameness, and 4) document the transmission rates of the most prevalent cause of infectious lameness in feedlot sheep.
Knowledge generated by this research team on the occurrence, types and causes of lameness will help improve how producers and veterinarians diagnose lameness to improve prevention, treatment and control of the disease. This will benefit both animal health, welfare and production economics by providing sheep producers and small ruminant veterinarians with science-based information regarding disease diagnostics and animal management risk factors. This information is critical in mitigating the effects of lameness in the Alberta sheep industry. As well, it will help identify additional areas of research to help prevent the most common causes of lameness e.g. best management practices and new vaccines.
Research Team members needed:
YOU –THE PRODUCERS!
We invite you to help us study this problem so that together we can learn how to minimize sheep lameness and improve animal welfare and productivity.
What we are asking:
We are looking for producers who are willing to share information with us via mail, email, fax or text, in the event that they have a lameness case arise on their farm.
The information we would like you to collect includes animal identification, history of lameness for the animal and farm, diagnosis, treatment, results of treatment, photographs of lesion, comments such as severity of the lameness (ability to bear weight or not), recent weather events, and pen or pasture conditions (wet or dry).
Forms will be provided to facilitate recording and reporting cases of lameness.
For further information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-915-5864