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Reduce Risk Of Scald In Lambs This Season

17 June 2022

Scald is caused by bacteria (Dichelobacter nodosus) in the grass and leads to damage to the soft tissue between the toes of lambs. It can lead to footrot if it goes untreated, but it is a different disease with a greater environmental influence than footrot.

Risk factors include high stocking density, long grass and congregation areas such as water troughs, feeding areas and shelter.

Some areas to consider to reduce risk:

  • Control grass height – you want the grass to stay in the 6-8cm zone when set stocked. This season has been conducive to higher grass heights for many. To keep on top of this, reduce the grazing area or increase stock numbers in a field. If the grass has already got ahead and you perceive the risk of scald to be high, bring in cattle or top for a safer way to control grass height without increasing stocking density.
  • Rotational grazing may help as it rests the pasture and reduces the bacteria build up in areas of the field; the bacteria survive on the pasture for approximately 14 days. In addition, it makes controlling grass height easier (target in:8cm, target out:5cm) as when grass height on entry exceeds the target, the rest period can be reduced by taking paddocks out for silage.
  • Move, adapt or increase congregation areas – poached areas around troughs and shelter are bacterial reservoirs. Hard standing can help and periodic movement of troughs is also beneficial.  If there is limited shelter, sheep will congregate at higher densities in hot weather, consider means to improve shade and shelter with more trees and hedgerows or construct shelter in fields, where possible.
  • Treat congregation areas with powdered lime to reduce the bacterial risk.
  • Monitor the flock closely and use antibiotics where necessary to reduce risk of footrot developing.

More on how to treat scald here. See a five-point plan to control lameness here.

Poppy Frater,

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