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How to Manage Foot Rot
Sheep and Goats

Don't let foot rot get out of hand in your herd. Learn more about detecting, controlling and eliminating it below.

A flock of white sheep in a green field.
Foot Rot Management in Sheep and Goats


Causes of Foot Rot: Foot rot is not "caused" by mud, manure, or moist conditions. It is a highly contagious disease that is spread by direct contact with a bacteria named B. Nodosus. If this bacteria is not present, your animals will not contract foot rot. When B. Nodosus is present, and the environment is warm and moist, a bacteria called F. Necrophorum joins forces with the causative bacteria and the disease begins to spread.


The Bacteria and How They Work: B. Nodosus can live within the hoof for an indefinite period of time and the animal may show no signs of foot rot. This bacteria can also survive in the soil or on other surfaces for up to fourteen days. This is the bacteria that must be eliminated from your animals and your premises.

F. Necrophorum is always present in manure. This bacteria by itself will not cause foot rot, but when B. Nodosus is present it is only a matter of time before the two bacteria combine to produce the disease.

When B. Nodosus attacks the hoof, it neutralizes the animal's antibodies and allows F. Necrophorum to enter also. The first visible sign is often a mild infection between the claws known as foot scald. The F. Necrophorum eats away at the hoof, liquefying it and allowing B. Nodosus to multiply by providing nutrients for its consumption. As B. Nodosus multiplies, it burrows deeper into the hoof tissue and F. Necrophorum follows. They continue to work together and penetrate deeper within the hoof.


Favorable Conditions for Spread or Disease: Foot rot occurs most often in the spring and fall months when the weather is wet and warm. Pastures become muddy and hoofs become softened. If the ground temperature is above 60 degrees and B. Nodosus is present in your flock or herd, an outbreak of foot rot can occur.

If you have experienced foot rot before, and think that you have eradicated it, but the disease appears again when spring or fall rolls around, the bacteria was not destroyed. The B. Nodosus is still there, buried deep within the hoof waiting for the right conditions to occur and release it from its host. When the infected animal steps down some of the bacteria is shed on the ground. When another animal steps on the same spot, the bacteria attaches itself to the hoof.

The B. Nodosus bacteria can be deposited the same way on hoof shears, floors of trucks or trailers, boots and shoes. It can also be transported on the feet of any animal. Since B. Nodosus can live in warm, moist soil for as long as fourteen days, the disease can spread very quickly if no action is taken.


Controlling Foot Rot: Control of foot rot requires excellent management practices. The basic principles are few but putting them into practice requires time and strict attention to detail. The ultimate goal is the elimination of B. Nodosus bacteria from your animals and your premises.

Begin by separating your animals into three groups. The first group will contain those animals which are chronically and obviously infected with foot rot. The second group will consist of animals which exhibit mild symptoms of foot rot or foot scald, and the third group will consist of apparently healthy and uninfected animals. Keep the groups separate until treatment is complete.

Infected animals should be isolated. Chronic, recurring cases and those with severely distorted overgrown hoofs should be considered for culling. Treat infected individuals daily with Dr. Naylor Hoof 'n Heel liquid until healing results or soak the feet in a Hoof 'n Heel foot bath for one hour and repeat at intervals of five days. Treatment should be continued for at least two five-day intervals after symptoms have disappeared to ensure that all the B. Nodosus has been eliminated from the hoof. Especially difficult cases may be treated with a wet-pack bandage by saturating cotton or gauze with Hoof 'n Heel and packing it between the claws and around the hoof. Wrap gauze bandages around the hoof and secure it. The hoof and bandage can be covered with a sturdy plastic bag, or a soft plastic bottle may be cut down and slipped over the foot like a boot. This keeps the bandage clean and ensures that the Hoof 'n Heel remains in contact with the hoof. Leave the bandage in place for twenty-four hours, remove, and repeat for a second twenty-four hours. Repeat at five-day intervals.


Mildly infected animals should be treated daily with Hoof 'n Heel liquid or made to stand in a Hoof 'n Heel foot bath for one hour at five-day intervals. Keep them in an area that has not been used for fourteen days and check their feet often. (Remember, B. Nodosus can live for fourteen days on the ground or other surfaces!)

Uninfected, healthy animals should be walked through a dilute foot bath of Dr. Naylor* Hoof 'n Heel, and placed in a dry, clean pasture or area that has not been used for at least fourteen days. The preventative foot bath should be placed so that the animals must walk through it daily. If new cases of foot scald or foot rot should occur, remove them from the uninfected animals and treat them as infected animals.


Management Practices:

  1. Once you have treated your flock or herd according to the above suggestions, confine the animals in an area that has been left vacant for at least 14 days. This time element ensures that the area will be clean and there will be no B. Nodosus bacteria present.

  2. Place a preventative Hoof 'n Heel foot bath where animals must walk through it daily.

  3. When trimming hoofs, be sure to sanitize hoof shears between each hoof of each animal to prevent the spread of infection. Bum parings.

  4. Sanitize your boots or shoes before walking from one confinement area to another.

  5. If you purchase new animals, treat them according to the procedure used for mildly infected animals (above) before placing them with the rest of the flock or herd. Remember that B. Nodosus can be present even when the animal shows no symptoms of foot disease.

  6. If you exhibit at any show or fair, pour Hoof 'n Heel on all hoofs daily while at the function and keep the show animals separate from the rest of the flock for at least one week after returning home. Pour Hoof 'n Heel on each hoof on arrival home and again in 5 days. After a week, return the animal to your flock or herd.


Why Use Hoof 'n Heel?

Hoof 'n Heel works 6 times faster than a zinc sulfate solution alone. That means that you would have to soak the animal's hoof for 6 hours in a zinc-sulfate solution to one hour in Hoof 'n Heel to get the same amount of zinc within the hoof. Zinc is what destroys the bacteria.

The zinc in Hoof 'n Heel penetrates faster because the sodium lauryl sulfate makes the water wetter, allowing it to be absorbed quicker. The zinc, once it is in the hoof, does not wash out with water.

Hoof 'n Heel is not harmful to animals or the environment.

Hoof 'n Heel is packaged in three forms for your convenience:

  • Pint squirt bottle for individual treatment;

  • Gallon container to refill the pint or to use as an individual foot bath;

  • Powder concentrate (25 lbs.) to be added to water to make either a foot bath for treatment (20 gallons) or for a preventative (40 gallons)

In conclusion, foot rot can be eliminated but it will take patience and good management practices. Once you have eliminated the B. Nodosus bacteria from your farm, take all precautions mentioned above to prevent the reintroduction of the bacteria.

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