Late winter rains across much of the sheep producing areas of South Australia have increased the risk of footrot spread this spring, prompting a reminder to the community to be alert for the debilitating disease.
The State's Footrot Program Manager Chris van Dissel said there have been four confirmed cases of footrot – a notifiable disease in South Australia – reported to the Department of Primary Industries and Regions in August.
"We have had reports this year from both local vets and sheep producers, which is surprising given the cold winter conditions of much of August,” he said.
"Those reports have been wide-spread with cases on Eyre Peninsula, as well as in the Mid North, Adelaide Hills and the South East of the state.”
Footrot is a contagious bacterial disease which causes inflammation of the skin and hoof which can cause significant economic loss to producers.
"Footrot, which requires average ambient temperatures above 10⁰ C, tends not to spread readily in the colder winter months of much of South Australia,” said Mr van Dissel.
"However having adequate moisture in the soil heading into spring will favour footrot development in flocks where infection has been masked in recent drier years or where new infections have occurred.”
Mr van Dissel said the key to good management of the disease, which impacts both goats and sheep, is early detection. "Many people believe that footrot won't spread during the middle of winter but it's interesting when you compare temperature data across different weather stations in South Australia to see that some areas have already had multiple days warm enough for footrot spread,” he said.
"Anyone who had had rains in the past two months and multiple days over 10⁰ C average ambient temperature – calculated by adding the maximum temperature to the minimum and dividing by two – should be on the lookout for lame animals.
"If footrot is present in any number of sheep – it will spread, particularly if sheep are being yarded for any reason.”
Any property manager who detect lameness in spring should suspect footrot, and report this to an
Animal Health Adviser or vet to get a qualified diagnosis and advice on treatment and management.
"I expect increased detections of footrot this year due to good late winter rains in many of the state's footrot prone areas as well as an influx of re-stocker sheep from interstate post the recent droughts and bushfires,” Mr van Dissel said.
The Footrot Management Program for South Australia is funded through the Sheep Industry Fund Board of Livestock SA.
For more information about footrot and management of the disease visit: https://pir.sa.gov.au/biosecurity/animal_health/sheep/health/footrot