Sheep (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB5162)

Health: Lameness


  1. Lameness in any animal is usually an indication of pain. Lameness in sheep is one of the most common signs of ill health and discomfort. It has clear adverse welfare implications and also affects the performance and production of both ewes and rams. A significant percentage of sheep with chronic lameness may be indicative of poor overall welfare standards within the flock.
  2. Good stockmanship, including frequent and thorough inspection along with correct diagnosis and implementation of a suitable programme of prevention and treatment, will help to reduce the incidence of lameness.
  3. Lameness can originate in the feet or joints, although in adult sheep the foot is the most common site. A flock programme of foot care should be part of the written welfare programme referred to at paragraph 21. An effective foot care programme will include regular inspection of the sheep's feet. It may also necessitate regular and careful paring, treatment of infected feet and foot-bathing with a suitable solution, which is maintained at the manufacturer's recommended dilution, and, where appropriate, vaccination. If footrot is a major cause of lameness or if normal treatments are unsuccessful, veterinary advice should be sought.
  4. Foot paring is a skilled procedure and can damage feet if carried out incorrectly or excessively. If in doubt, specialist advice should be sought
  5. If a chronically lame sheep does not respond to remedial treatment, it should be culled and not left to suffer. As such animals cannot be transported in a way which avoids further suffering, they should be slaughtered on the farm (see paragraph 37). In addition, sheep that cannot get up without assistance or sheep that can bear weight on only three legs when standing must not be transported. Sheep that can bear weight on all four feet but are slightly lame should not be consigned to market or sent on any journey which is likely to exacerbate the injury; however slight
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