Managing virulent footrot in sheep and goats in Western Australia

Page last updated: Monday, 19 September 2022 - 10:37am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Management options: eradication or control

Farmers with quarantined flocks first need to decide whether to eradicate or control footrot in their flock. They then, together with their Department inspector, develop a footrot property disease management plan.

Eradication can be achieved by either:

  • destocking the property of all sheep and goats, or
  • repeat inspection and culling of affected sheep during the summer period.

If a farmer chooses to control virulent footrot for economic reasons, sheep can still be sold for slaughter under the terms of the Pest Control Notice. Farmers opting for control must contain the infection to their property and are subject to biosecurity audits.

DPIRD inspectors will assist the property manager to determine what sheep to cull in summer eradication inspections to eradicate footrot from the property then carry out release inspections on eligible properties. These occur after each spring, when conditions are right for expression of footrot if it is present.  When all feet of all sheep have been inspected to be free of virulent footrot the Department inspector releases the property from the Pest Control Notice.

Use of footbathing, antibiotics or vaccine at any time before a release inspection must be discussed with a Department footrot case manager as it may affect eligibility for release. 

Footrot vaccines

There are two footrot vaccines available (a serogroup-specific and a commercial vaccine).  The footrot vaccine must be with prior written permission from the WA Chief Veterinary Officer for treatment of existing cases of footrot. Treatment must be undertaken under the requirements of the Footrot Control Program with the supervision of a Department footrot case manager. The vaccine does not protect from infection and therefore is not used on properties that are not under a footrot control program.  

How to prevent virulent footrot in your flock

The greatest risk of introducing footrot into your flock is by buying infected stock, or having infected stray stock mix with your flock. Sensible precautions to avoid this include:

  • buy direct from properties with a known health status
  • inspect the feet of animals before buying
  • ask for a Sheep Health Statement
  • treat sheep returning from agistment as you would purchased stock
  • keep newly introduced stock separate from existing stock for as long as possible and examine their feet regularly
  • maintain sheep-proof boundary fences to prevent stray sheep from entering your property.

More information

For more information about footrot, contact your local DPIRD vet or biosecurity officer.