AN industry control program, combined with last year’s dry season and low sheep numbers, has contributed to a drop in the number of Western Australian flocks affected by virulent footrot.
Currently, 23 properties are known to have the virulent strain of footrot and seven new cases of virulent footrot were detected in WA sheep flocks last season.
Department of Agriculture and Food Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Peter Morcombe said the industry-funded Footrot Control Program had continued to maintain cost-effective control of known infection.
Dr Morcombe said the estimated prevalence of infected flocks was now less than 0.5 per cent of the state’s flock.
“However as the disease is not obvious in some flocks subject to dry conditions or a mild strain of the bacteria, eradication of virulent footrot from all flocks in the state is not feasible,” he said.
“Footrot is now confined to the Great Southern with an occasional detection in a flock in the South West. However, the wetter conditions in 2011 will suit the footrot bacteria and we expect more cases this year.
“Inspection for footrot at an abattoir is the lowest-cost way of looking at sheep from many flocks each year and provides confidence that virulent footrot is under control.”
More than 270,000 sheep were inspected in the 2010-11 footrot season from 2,269 lines. Three of the new cases were detected through abattoir inspection. The other new cases were detected by investigation of movements of sheep.
Inspections recommence in October when the increase in temperature assists the bacteria to infect and inflame the moist inter-digital skin of the feet.
Dr Morcombe reminded sheep owners to check for lameness within their own flocks and report suspicion of virulent footrot to a department biosecurity officer.
More information on virulent footrot detection and management is also available from the department website www.agric.wa.gov.a u.