Why is it measured?

With an estimated national incidence of 10%, lameness is one of the greatest economic and welfare challenges currently facing the sheep sector. It is estimated that the losses from footrot alone equate to around £10 a year for every ewe in Great Britain and if the other causes of lameness were included this figure would be much higher. Whilst there are other non-contagious causes of lameness, the majority of sheep lameness in the UK is due to infection (footrot, scald or CODD). Lame sheep are not only in considerable discomfort and pain, but are predisposed to further disease challenges (e.g. metabolic imbalances, mastitis), reduced fertility, weight loss and are a risk of infection to the rest of the flock. Early recognition, investigation and treatment of any lame animal is essential to limit pain, aid recovery and minimise the spread of disease. It is important for farmers to identify the causes of lameness present in order that appropriate treatment protocols and future prevention strategies can be developed.

How to assess and score using the AssureWel measure

1.a) Lameness                                                                                                                                                     Individual Measure
Sample: ONE representative group of adult breeding ewes (3 or more animals assessed jointly with stockperson)

Assess the individual sheep by watching them walk. Tally the number of not lame (unaffected) and lame and severely lame (affected) sheep. Score all animals within the group (excluding lambs if they can be instantly identified from dams) or as many as possible before losing track of which animals you have seen.

Note: It is important to make and record a judgement on individual sheep, rather than, for example, noting that in a flock of 100 you have spotted 2 lame sheep and therefore recording the remaining 98 sheep as not lame.

0 = Good/Imperfect mobility
Walks with even weight bearing and rhythm on all four feet, with a flat back; long fluid strides possible; or steps uneven (rhythm or weight bearing) or strides shortened; affected limb/s not immediately identifiable.

1 = Lame
Lame sheep display an uneven walking rhythm. They may also show shortened strides and obvious head nods when moving. One or more limbs may be only partially weight bearing. They may be reluctant to stand and graze whilst on their knees (but need to be seen walking to score).

2 = Severely lame - NO weight bearing on one or more limbs
One or more limbs to be bearing no weight and or rested/held up when standing. They may be reluctant to stand and graze whilst on their knees (but need to be seen walking or resting/holding limb when standing to score)

1. b) Lameness: severely lame sheep                                                                                                                    Flock Measures
In addition to scoring your representative group, tally the number of any additional severely lame (score 2) sheep observed when assessing all other groups on the farm.
  1. Lameness
  2. Body Condition Score (Thin sheep)
  3. Dirtiness
  4. Fleece loss
  5. Sheep needing further care
  6. Castration, tail docking and ear notching
  7. Mortality


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