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Sheep Update

Livestock Update, July 2003

Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Sheep, VA Tech

2003-04 Virginia Commercial Ewe Lamb Development Program
Rules and regulations and consignment information for the 2003-04 Virginia Commercial Ewe Lamb Development Program are now available. The Virginia Commercial Ewe Lamb Development Program was initiated in 2000 with three primary objectives: 1) to provide commercial producers a source of quality replacement ewes, with documented genetics, management, and health status, 2) to provide an opportunity for producers to market commercial breeding stock, and 3) to serve as an educational tool in sheep production and management. The program is sponsored by the Virginia Sheep Producer's Association and is conducted at the Virginia Sheep Evaluation Station, located at the Virginia Tech Shenandoah Valley Agriculture Research and Extension Center located near Steeles Tavern. Fall and spring-born commercial crossbred ewe lambs will be delivered to the station on September 9. Ewe lambs will be developed on grass with supplemental grain mix provided to optimize growth and reproductive performance during the development program. Ewes will be co-mingled and allocated to breeding groups based on age, weight, and breed. Ewes will be mated to purebred rams, which have all been evaluated on the 2003 Virginia Performance Ram Lamb Test. Rams will be placed with the ewes October through mid-December. Breeding dates will be recorded on all ewes, and pregnancy status will be determined on all ewes in late December via ultrasound. A sale will be held in early January for all pregnant ewes. Ewes will be sold in consignor groups of 4-5 ewes based on projected lambing date and genetics. In the first two years of the program, a total of 276 bred ewe lambs have sold for an average of $167 per head. Average development and sale costs have averaged $48 per ewe, for a return of $119 per ewe to the consignor. In the fall seasons of 2000 through 2002, a total of 325 ewe lambs were exposed to rams for a 50-day breeding season. Of these 325 ewe lambs, 287 were confirmed pregnant (88.3%). For consignment information, contact Scott Greiner at 540-231-9163.

Treating Foot Scald and Foot Rot in Sheep
The extremely wet weather that has persisted in the Mid Atlantic region this spring has been conductive to foot rot and foot scald in sheep. Foot scald is caused by a soil bacteria that is present in most environments, and manifests itself during very wet conditions. Foot scald causes lameness, frequently on the front feet, and lesions are found between the hooves. The tissue between the toes of a sheep with foot scald are generally blanched and white, or red and swollen. Foot scald is much easier to treat than foot rot. Many times, placing sheep on drier footing and out of mud will alleviate the problems of the disease. Foot scald may also be treated topically by applying a solution of copper sulfate (Kopertox). The simplest and most effective treatment is use of a footbath containing 10% zinc sulfate solution (8 pounds zinc sulfate to 10 gallons water). The frequency and severity of foot scald infection will decline as drier weather returns.

Foot rot is a much more serious disease, as treatment intervention is necessary to eradicate the disease. Foot rot is a highly contagious diseases that is caused by anaeorobic bacteria that invade the sole of the hoof, causing deterioration and separation of the horny tissue. Infected feet are characterized by grayish-white matter and a strong foul odor. The foot rot organism thrives under warm, moist conditions and may spread through the flock through contaminated ground, manure, and bedding. Foot rot is typically introduced into a flock through the purchase of an infected animal, or exposure of the flock to infected facilities. Persistently infected animals may carry the organism, which spreads to the remainder of the flock when environmental conditions are favorable.

Since foot rot infects the hoof itself, and is highly contagious, treatment protocols are more extensive compared to foot scald. Treatment programs include foot trimming and footbaths, and isolation of clean from infected sheep within the flock. Research has demonstrated that the foot rot vaccine is also useful in eradicating the disease from the flock. A complete description of foot rot eradication protocols is contained in Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication #410-028 titled "Control, Treatment, and Elimination of Foot Rot from Sheep". Contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office for a copy of the publication.

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