Monday, November 18, 2013

Hoof Care

Hoof care is extremely important for the well being of your flock. Sheep with hoof problems will fail to thrive and meet their full genetic potential. Hooves should be regularly checked for overgrowth and disease.

The diseases affecting the hoof are foot rot, foot scald, foot abscess, foot and mouth disease, bluetounge, soremouth and laminitis.

The condition of the hoof depends on the breed of sheep,the genetics, the farm management and the soil condition.

Lameness in a sheep is a sign of several foot conditions many that are serious.

A perfect hoof should be flat at the bottom and have a boxy shape.

Sheep grazed on rocky dry land usually need less hoof care than those grazed on moist rock less land. Sheep in high rainfall areas will need their hoofs checked more regularly.

The two most common disease of the foot in sheep are footrot and scald.

Foot rot is responsible for 90% of lameness in sheep. A rotting smell of the foot is a sign of footrot

Ewes that have excessive hoof growth have their health jeopardised. They are of high risk of developing arthritis, joint and tendon problems. Some ewes need regular hoof trimming depending on where they graze.
Avoid the trimming of ewes hooves that are in late gestation.

How To Trim The Hoof

A pair of hoof trimmers are used to trim the hooves.
The sheep should be restrained, you can do this by placing them on their rump  in the shearing position.
You can also use the tilting squeeze table. The sheep is tilted on its side while being restrained.
There is also the sheep deck chair. Which  makes the job alot easier.

We trim the hoof so that the hoof matches the angle of the coronary band. At the end of  trimming the bottom of the foot should be parallel to the coronary band.

Avoid trimming too deep. This can lead to bleeding, lameness and infections. If there is bleeding, hold up the foot and apply blood loss powder. A tetanus should be given if there is excessive bleeding. The foot should be kept free of debris for a few days and monitored.

You need to remove any excess debris from the foot.
The toe and the outside hoof wall are trimmed down to where fresh sole can be seen and the bottom of the foot is parallel to the coronary band. Stop trimming once you see the first sign of pinkness. You trim from the heel to the toe.
Do not leave the toes too long or too short.
Take off small amounts of hoof wall and toe at a time to prevent mistakes.

The inside wall of the hoof can also be trimmed. It should be trimmed a little bit lower than the outside wall.  The heel regions may need to be trimmed. A plane is  used to help even up the surfaces and remove any dead sole.
The sheep's dew claws should  be trimmed, don't trim too deep as this can lead to a heavy bleed.
When you have both sides done check to see that the sheep has correct foot balance.

Remember dry brittle hooves are difficult to trim so let the sheep stand in a moist area for a while before you start the trimming. Water softens the hooves making them easier to trim.


With adequate farm management your flock should not suffer from footrot. Huge profit loss will be suffered from flocks inflicted with footrot.
Footrot is an extremely painful and devastating disease when left untreated. Your sheep will be very affected by this disease. There will be weight loss and lameness in the sheep.
When both front legs are affected the sheep will walk on its knees a shameful sight.
With footrot there is a distinctive rotting smelling discharge.

Footrot is caused by two bacteria Fusobacterium necrophorum and Bacterioides nodusus along with environmental conditions that aid their growth. Both need to be present to cause the footrot.

The environmental conditions that aid the footrot  are mud, warmth and poor sanitation.
Infected sheep spread the disease. The Flock may become infected when new sheep are brought into the flock. You must ensure that the infection is dealt with or there will be reinfection. The nodusus bacteria stays in the soil for up to 21 days.
Fusobacterium can live in the hoof for 10 to 14 days. Sheep trucks can be contaminated with footrot and spread the infection.


Lameness is a major sign of footrot but may not be  in the early stages of the disease. The area between the toes becomes moist and red. The infection attacks the sole of the hoof  weakening and separating horny tissues. Both feet can be infected and there will be the  characteristic foul smell.
Contact your vet to get a definite diagnosis as footrot can be confused with other diseases such as abscesses and footscald.


Proper sheep management at all times.
Never transport sheep in a truck that has not been cleaned and disinfected.
Trim the feet of new members to the flock and monitor them closely for the first 30 days or so also keep them isolated from the flock for 30 days.
Don't use facilities where infected footrot sheep have been for at least 2 weeks.
Don't buy sheep from an infected flock that seem unaffected.


Footbathing, you can use a walk through foot bath or a stand in foot bath for 5 to 10 minutes.

A strong antibiotic treatment as provided by the vet.

Foot trimming when possible to remove the infected parts of the hoof, this reduces the area where the bacteria can hide. Do not use trimming as your only treatment as this could increase the severity of the disease.

Dry chemicals can be used. Zinc sulphate can be placed in a box and the sheep walk through it. This will not cure the sheep but it will decrease the spread of the footrot.

Topical medications after the trimming of the hooves.

Oral therapy such as zinc sulphate  0.5gram for 21 days can help in the treatment and prevention.