News & Media

Stay vigilant and investigate hoof lesions

Released on

Released on:
Monday, 11. March 2019 - 9:00

WA livestock producers are reminded to inspect sheep and goat feet for footrot lesions, with clinical signs still evident at this time of year.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Footrot Control Program manager Jenny Cotter said signs to look for included moisture, reddening and loss of hair between the toes and minor changes to the soft horn of the inside wall and sole of the foot.

Dr Cotter said while the disease was most notable in spring, clinical signs would still be present now and producers should stay vigilant, keep checking and report anything of concern to the department.

“The two forms of footrot, benign and virulent, are caused by different strains of the same bacterium, Dichelobacter nodosus but initially present in the same way,” Dr Cotter said.

“Clinically, this picture can be very similar in both virulent and benign footrot, also known as ‘foot scald’.”

Dr Cotter said laboratory testing of the scrapings from skin or horn between the toes is required to distinguish between virulent and benign strains.

“Each strain has minor biological differences that are responsible for the differing degree of severity of disease, with virulent footrot being more severe,” Dr Cotter said.

“The milder clinical signs we now see with virulent footrot are due to the gradual extinction of the severe strains within Western Australian sheep flocks due to the ongoing work of the Footrot Control Program (FCP) over the past 40 years.”

Dr Cotter said border controls continued to prevent the importation of sheep infected with virulent footrot into WA.

“Inspections for virulent footrot in sheep are carried out every year in abattoirs and on farms by FCP staff. Producers receive written notification of the testing results after a line of their sheep have been examined or sampled at the abattoir,” Dr Cotter said.

“Properties found to have virulent footrot will be quarantined to restrict spread and will receive assistance from DPIRD under the program to control or eradicate virulent footrot.”

Properties with benign footrot are not subject to regulation or restriction.

Dr Cotter said benign footrot is widespread in sheep flocks in areas with greater than 450mm annual rainfall. However, the first time many producers become aware of this is following notification of having benign footrot from abattoir or other testing.

Producers worried about having benign footrot should contact a DPIRD inspector to discuss previous results and recheck by sampling the feet of their sheep and goats every one to two years. This is because it is impossible to visually differentiate between benign and virulent footrot.

“We strongly encourage producers to practice good on-farm biosecurity with regard to introduced stock and stock being sold,” Dr Cotter said.

The Sheep & Goat Industry Funding Scheme funds the Western Australian Footrot Control Program (FCP).

For more information about footrot, speak to your local Department biosecurity officer or the footrot webpage

Media contacts: Jodie Thomson/Lisa Bertram, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937