News & Media

New test for footrot helping to detect the disease sooner

Released on

Released on:
Thursday, 23. January 2020 - 10:00

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has a new laboratory test for virulent footrot, which is helping to detect the disease earlier and assist in controlling the spread of the disease.

Virulent footrot is an infectious disease that causes lameness and productivity loss in sheep and goats and is spread to other properties via sheep movements. 

The new test, developed in Switzerland and tested by department researchers under WA conditions, improves the detection of virulent footrot cases and provides a result more rapidly by eliminating the need to culture (grow) the bacteria prior to further tests.

The new test has reduced the time taken to return the results to the farmer by two-thirds – on average from 15 days to 5 days.

The WA sheep and goat industry funds a Footrot Control Program through the Sheep and Goat Industry Funding Scheme, with operational activities managed by the department. Funding for the test was provided through the scheme.

Department veterinary officer Jenny Cotter said the new test had been in use since October and had made the footrot control program more effective in detecting and containing the disease.

“Early detection of footrot on a property helps to stop spread to other properties,” Dr Cotter said.

“The department undertakes regular inspections for virulent footrot at five abattoirs across the State.

“This surveillance is important as often producers are not aware the disease is present on their property.

“Once virulent footrot is confirmed, department inspectors begin working with the affected producers to put footrot management plans in place on their properties.”

Any producers who notice lameness or hoof overgrowth in their sheep are required to report suspicion of the disease to their local department biosecurity officer or private vet so an inspection of the sheep can be arranged. 

More information on footrot can be found on the department website.


New footrot test
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development senior laboratory scientist Dr Nicky Buller (left) and laboratory technician Jingjing Zhang add DNA to reagent tubes as part of the new footrot test.

Media contact:

Jodie Thomson/Katrina Bowers, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937