Brinicombe Group Advises on Footbaths

Running sheep through a footbath can help improve flock welfare, productivity and profitability if completed correctly.

Running sheep through a footbath can help improve flock welfare, productivity and profitability if completed correctly.

There are two main objectives when foot-bathing sheep.

  • The first is to expose the bacteria that cause scald, footrot or contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD) to an anti-bacterial agent.
  • The second reason is to impregnate the hoof horn, at the point of its production, with hoof building elements.

To achieve these objectives the feet of the sheep need to be clean, free from faeces and soil, so that the footbath solution can wash between the digits and reach the junction with the hoof.

Using traditional footbath solutions the sheep should be held in the footbath for as long as possible allowing time for the foot-bathing agent to penetrate infected tissues and the adjacent hoof horn.

However, because of the time factor most sheep do not stand that long in the footbath so they should be held on a hard surface for an hour after foot bathing, extending the contact time between the foot bathing agent and the foot.

The best footbath solutions penetrate hoof horn, reaching the site of infection and help to build replacement cells for infected tissue.

Formalin, used at 10% dilution, is cheap and, because the bacteria that cause scald do not penetrate the foot, effective against scald. However, formalin is very toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin, it also burns and is probably a human carcinogen so protective clothing and goggles should be worn at all times when in use. Sheep that have any infection of the hoof are reluctant to walk through formalin footbaths due to its burning sensation.

Zinc and iodine can penetrate the hoof where formalin cannot. Zinc has the advantages of contributing to the production of good quality hoof horn and penetrating the hoof while Iodine is extremely active against footrot bacteria, again penetrating the hoof quickly.

The Denis Brinicombe Group Aquatrace sheep feet footbath is a blend of synergistic minerals, salts, organic acids, zinc and iodine combined with a “gumming surfactant” agent. This product forms a viscous solution that sticks to the feet. This in turn allows the working ingredients to penetrate the hoof and adhere to the digits without having to be held in the footbath for a long period of time.

Correctly used it is non-toxic and is safe in use for both shepherd and sheep and because there is no burning sensation sheep are happy to stand in it without stressing.

For routine foot bathing the footbath solution should be used at 5% dilution but for a more intensive action a dilution rate of 12.5% is recommended.