The role of lambs, time and space in the persistence of Dichelobacter nodosus, the causal agent of footrot

Project lead: Professor Laura Green

Lameness in sheep is detrimental to health and welfare and has a major impact on the economics of the sheep industry. The majority (>90%) of lameness in Great Britain is caused by footrot, an infectious bacterial disease caused by Dichelobacter nodosus.

Many risk factors for lameness in ewes have been identified, leading to development of control practices that can be recommended to farmers to reduce lameness prevalence in their flocks. Improved farmer uptake of recommended practices has resulted in the prevalence of lameness in England falling to 5% in 2013. However, the Farm Animal and Welfare Council set aims in 2011 to further reduce the prevalence of lameness further – to 5% of the national flock lame by 2016, and less than 2% of the national flock lame by 2021.

Despite the research into ewe lameness, little work has looked directly at lameness in lambs. Lambs contribute to lameness prevalence in the flock by contracting disease themselves and they may also alter the transmission dynamics of D. nodosus in the flock.  Investigating the effect of lambs on lameness prevalence and transmission dynamics in the flock may identify control strategies that could help acheive the 2021 target for lameness prevalence.

This project is being conducted in conjunction with the University of Warwick.

Research objectives

The objectives of the project are to identify risk factors for lameness in lambs, and to investigate transmission dynamics of the spread of footrot between ewes and lambs. Information from these analyses will lead to design and conduction of a longitudinal observational study that records spatial location, close contact and occurrence of lameness in lambs and ewes. 

Research team

Professor Laura Green, University of Birmingham
Professor Matt Keeling, University of Warwick
Kate Lewis, University of Warwick

Partner organisations and sponsors

  • BBRSC MIBTP CASE Studentship
  • Agriculture Horticultural Development Board (AHDB)