Most foot rot, or hoof rot, comes to a flock by diseased sheep brought to the same pasture. That was our mistake. We learned not to buy sheep that have a had a history of hoof rot.
What do you do if a sheep starts limping?
You don’t have to cull all the sheep that start limping if this disease gets going in your herd. You do have to separate them from the rest of the flock, however. Pen up the diseased ones in a dry area where you can observe them.
How do you clean a rotted hoof?
Take a clean knife or disinfected pair of hoof trimming shears or, and cut away as much hoof as you possibly can. Foot rot gets up under the hoof so you will probably cut out 50% or more of an animal’s hoof in serious cases. Fortunately, your sheep will not feel most of this since the bacteria has already separated the hoof from the foot base. Cutting away like this exposes the bacteria to the air which helps it die.
I always have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide handy to spray the opened hoof. You will see the smelly rotted area foam up quickly as the H2O2 goes to work. This kills it all for the short-term. But there is more than meets the eye. The worst cases of this disease involve two types of bacteria, one working outside the body and the other working inside the body.
At this point, most farmers say to use zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, or formalin. You will have a hard time getting formalin and the copper sulfate could be fatal if the sheep ingest it. We have used the Zinc Sulfate Monohydrate with some success. You have to dissolve it into warm water, then pen up your animals (we used an old stock tank) for an hour. Let them soak in this each day and eventually the foot rot goes away (as long as you have cut away the rotted hoof portions).
What is the best treatment?
Our quest to cure this in our animals (and a ram we had borrowed from a friend) led us to an antibiotic called tetracycline under the label Duramycin. This low-cost product removes worms from poultry and swine. You will not use it internally with your sheep, though. Mix it into a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide until the liquid looks bright yellow. It does not take much and if you make a lot you will have to throw out what you cannot use right away. Mix it up fresh and it will knock the bacteria dead. If you have to treat more than just a couple sheep, put on rubber gloves as the over spray can soften your finger nails and make them painful to touch.
If you have an infected sheep, first remove it from the flock, vigorously trim the hoof with good trimmers, clean with peroxide, and drench the area with the Duramycin-peroxide mixture. It may take a day or two for the animal to stop limping (that exposed foot will be sensitive for a while). After three days examine the infected hoof again and spray with peroxide to see if any more bacteria inside causes foaming. If so, pare the hoof back some more and treat with the Duramycin mixture again. To succeed against this disease, aggressively trim and liberally soak.
Catch foot rot quickly before the whole flock does!