Hendre Ifan Goch Project Introduction - An integrated approach to understanding and managing lameness in sheep

Site: Hendre Ifan Goch, Glynogwr, Bridgend, CF35 6EN

Technical Officer: Elan Davies

Project Title: An integrated approach to understanding and managing lameness in sheep


Introduction to project: Lameness in sheep is a significant cause of financial losses with an estimated annual cost of £28 million to the UK agricultural industry. It creates serious welfare implications and negatively impacts public perception of sheep farming with three million UK sheep thought to be lame at any one time. In addition, two-thirds of antibiotic use in sheep systems is thought to be used in treating lameness. The UK agricultural sector has identified lameness reduction as a key area in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. A target for flocks of less than 2% lameness by 2021 has been set by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. The industry has produced the Five Point Plan for sheep lameness to provide evidence-based advice for farmers and vets to follow to achieve this target.

The flock of 600 ewes at Hendre Ifan Goch are of very high health status, with farmers Rhys and Russell working closely with their vets to ensure the best possible health and welfare standards for their flock. Despite this, scald in lambs seems to be a recurring issue, having been detected for no apparent reason during the grazing season. Undertaking investigative work to understand why and when scald outbreaks occur will be a great advantage in helping the farm control and manage lameness in their lambs. Lameness can also be problematic in housed ewes prior to lambing when there is increased moisture in the straw bedding, therefore, investigating an alternative bedding to straw when housing ewes pre-lambing will also hopefully assist in the fight to reduce lameness. An integrated approach is proposed to understanding and managing lameness in sheep.


Project Objectives: 

  • Investigate the environmental factors that influence the outbreaks of lameness in sheep; particularly incidences of scald in lambs during the grazing season.
  • Examine the correlation between rainfall, temperature, sward height and lameness incidence and prevalence.
  • Investigate the genetic trends of lameness which will help identify ewes and rams whose lambs are statistically more susceptible to developing lameness.
  • Reduce lameness to improve lamb liveweight gains

Key Performance Indicators Set:

  1. Reduce lameness in ewes by 10%.
  2. Reduce scald incidence in lambs by 15%, and understand how to prevent incidences from occurring.
  3. Reduce straw use by 80% and reduce lameness during housing by 20%.
  4. Reduce antibiotic usage by 10%.


Timeline and Milestones: 

Monitoring and recording incidences of lameness

To understand exactly why and when lameness in lambs and ewes occurs, monitoring the incidences of lameness (in lambs, ewes and rams) will be a vital part of this project. Any lambs, ewes and rams that are lame will be recorded.


Monitoring health status of lambs and ewes

To understand whether underlying health issues, for example parasite burden/trace element deficiencies are influencing lameness levels. Samples may be taken throughout the trial.


Weather recording

As the farm is part of the ‘GrassCheckGB’ grass measuring project, they have a weather station on-farm that records rainfall, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction. Following monitoring of lameness, this will allow us to look back at the weather patterns vs the lameness incidences and see if there are any obvious patterns. 


Plate meter readings

Weekly plate meter readings are being taken as part of the ‘GrassCheckGB’ project, therefore comparing sward length with incidences of lameness will also be investigated.


Genetic relationship

As the farm is part of the ‘Ram Compare’ project, genetic/family tree information for all stock on the farm is recorded. This data will allow us to identify ewes and rams whose lambs are statistically more susceptible to developing scald and lameness.

Following the monitoring and analysing of data in the first year of the project, a plan will be put in place to assist with controlling and managing lameness in the flock for the coming years.