Sheep and farm level factors associated with footrot: a longitudinal repeated cross-sectional study of sheep on six farms in the UK

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Abstract

Footrot is an ovine foot disease of infectious origin and a cause of serious welfare and economic compromise in affected animals and flocks. The development of footrot in sheep is associated with the infectious agent Dichelobacter nodosus, which may invade as a primary pathogen, but the risk of disease is increased following damage to the interdigital skin of the foot. In this study, we used data from six farms in North Wales collected between June 2012 and October 2013 to model the dynamic changes of footrot prevalence over time and investigate the association of footrot with multiple farm, management, environmental and sheep factors. Footrot prevalence varied widely within and between farms and overall varied with season with an increase in prevalence shown in late summer and again in the spring. In addition, sheep were more likely to have footrot when the flock size was larger, when grazing poached pasture or when grazing a longer sward, and yearling sheep were less likely to have footrot when compared with lambs and adult sheep. These data may be helpful for advising farmers of likely environmental events, risk groups and management practices that may increase the probability of sheep developing footrot.

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