National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

04 October 2018

Research findings by The University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences’ research team shows that scald and under-running footrot cause 70-80% of lameness in sheep. 

The research team have been exhibiting at YFC events this year to help share messages about footrot to support young farmers.

Treating individual sheep within three days of becoming lame is the most important factor to reduce the level of scald and footrot.

Where farmers treat all sheep within three days of onset of lameness, lameness falls to less than 2% and the number of sheep requiring treatment reduces within six to eight weeks. Prompt treatment improves productivity by 10-20% and improves sheep welfare.

Advice for footrot includes:

  • The best treatment is one long-acting antibiotic injection recommended by a veterinarian (e.g. oxytetracycline), correctly dosed for weight of the sheep and antibiotic spray on all four feet.
  • Do not trim the feet, it doubles the time to recovery.
  • Using antibiotics only on affected sheep will minimise antibiotic use and the associated risk of antibiotic resistance. Long term use of antibiotics will be reduced with reducing lameness levels.

For more information visit and for further information on lameness, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) produce a “Reducing lameness for better returns” manual through their Better Returns Programme (BRP). The manual is available online and hard copies can be ordered through the AHDB BRP team via or calling 024 7647 8834.

Recognising and treating footrot in sheep

Footrot causes lameness

Nearly a million sheep are lame at any one time in England. Lame sheep are less productive and have poor welfare. Scald and under-running footrot account for 70%-80% of all lameness and are caused by the same bacteria and so need to be managed together as one disease - footrot. Control of footrot can reduce lameness levels to under 2%.

How to recognise footrot

It is important to name the causes of lameness correctly to make sure the treatment is correct and will be successful.

Avoid foot trimming when you inspect and treat footrot

Clear away mud and grass to see the skin and claws to see what is causing the sheep to be lame but do not use water or trim the foot. Your eyes and nose will tell you if a sheep has footrot.

Treating footrot

The best treatment for footrot is a long-acting antibiotic injection and antibiotic spray on all four feet. This treatment leads to 95% of sheep recovering from lameness in 2-10 days. Avoid foot trimming because it slows down recovery from footrot.Trimming also causes pain if you cut into living tissue and leads to misshapen feet.


If you show sheep and want to tidy their feet to improve their appearance this is fine so long as feet are not over-trimmed and the living tissue of the foot is not damaged.

Does using antibiotics to treat footrot cause antibiotic resistance?

Footrot is caused by a bacteria and so antibiotics are an effective and appropriate treatment. Only treating sheep with footrot within three days of becoming lame and using the correct dose of antibiotic minimises the use of antibiotics and so minimises the risk of resistance. Treating sheep within three days of becoming lame reduces the spread of footrot to other sheep and so minimises the number of lame sheep you treat with antibiotics.

Authors: Dr Emma Monaghan and Professor Laura Green, University of Warwick.


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