The aims of this research were to identify management practices that sheep farmers currently use to treat and prevent footrot in sheep and whether they consider that these are successful management tools and to find out how sheep farmers would ideally like to manage footrot in their flock. Over 90% of lameness in sheep in the UK is caused by Dichelobacter nodosus, which presents clinically as interdigital dermatitis (ID) alone or with separation of hoof horn (FR). A questionnaire was sent to 265 farmers to investigate their current management and their satisfaction with current management of the spectrum of clinical presentations of footrot. Farmers were also asked their ideal management of footrot and their interest in, and sources of information for, change. Approximately 160 farmers responded. Farmers satisfied with current management reported a prevalence of lameness ≤5%. These farmers caught and treated lame sheep within 3 days of first seeing them lame, and treated sheep with FR and ID with parenteral antibacterials. Farmers dissatisfied with their management reported a prevalence of lameness >5%. These farmers practised routine foot trimming, footbathing and vaccination against footrot. Whilst 89% of farmers said they were satisfied with their management of FR over 34% were interested in changing management. Farmers identified veterinarians as the most influential source for new information. Farmers reported that ideally they would control FR by culling/isolating lame sheep, sourcing replacements from non-lame parents, trimming feet less, using antibacterial treatments less and using vaccination more. Footbathing was a commonly used management that was linked with dissatisfaction and that also was listed highly as an ideal management. Consequently, some of the ideal managements are in agreement with our understanding of disease control (culling and isolation, sourcing healthy replacements) but others are in contrast with our current knowledge of management and farmers self-reporting of satisfaction of management of footrot (less use of antibacterial treatment, more footbathing and vaccination). One explanation for this is the theory of cognitive dissonance where belief follows behaviour, i.e. farmers report that they believe an ideal which is what they are currently doing, even if the management is sub-optimal.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the farmers for their contribution to this study and English Beef & Lamb Executive for funding.
- Correspondence analysis
- Farmer opinion
- Flock management
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Animals
- Animal Science and Zoology