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Welcome to Sheep Foot Health Research & Education

Eliminating the Effects of Footrot on Sheep Flocks in the Northeast

sheep in barn; photo by Edwin RemsbergThe Northeast is home to millions of lamb consumers. However, significant barriers exist to the profitability of sheep, including key animal health issues. Footrot has been identified as a main reason sheep farmers are forced out of business. Footrot is a highly contagious disease that requires relentless treatment using persistent hoof trimming, foot bathing, customized vaccines, and other management practices. These efforts require considerable time and money.

The Sheep Foot Health Project educated producers about the causes, treatment, management, and preventative techniques, including the use of genetic selection to generate footrot-free flocks. A unique integrated approach of foot management, selection for resistance, and documentation of genetic markers will allow breeders to eliminate footrot.

Producers who were selected to participate in the Sheep Foot Health Project learned the techniques for assessment, scoring, and record keeping of foot health. They also learned how to create and implement a customized biosecurity plan, an important tool in preventing the disease.

An experienced research team evaluated and scored the feet of at least 1500 sheep from participating farms and collect blood samples. DNA from these samples will be evaluated for predictive markers of footrot resistance. Resistance in these sheep will be tested by documenting absence of footrot lesions in the presence of footrot organisms. Selection for resistance will reduce producers’ costs and make them less dependent on chemicals.

For more information, contact Richard Brzozowski, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, 75 Clearwater Drive, Suite 104, Falmouth, ME 04105, richard.brzozowski@maine.edu or 207-781-6099.

*Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, West Virginia, and District of Columbia