SHEEP industry researchers are hoping the strong interest in a new vaccine for footrot will support primary producers in eradicating the costly disease.
Merinos are among the most susceptible sheep breed to the bacterial hoof disease and costs the livestock industry millions in losses and control programs each year.
Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Sydney announced a breakthrough in developing a vaccine that will target specific serogroups, or strains of the bacteria.
Vet consultant Bruce Jackson delivered an update at the recent Best Wool Best Lamb conference in Bendigo where he said the interest and uptake of the vaccine had been strong in Tasmania and Victoria.
It requires sheep to be swabbed so the correct strain of footrot could be identified before the correct serogroups are incorporated in a vaccine.
The cost of testing 10 lesion swabs is estimated to be from $1000 to $3000, and results in a bivalent vaccine recommendation required for your flock.
“Specific footrot vaccines do give a longer period of protection than the old 10-strain vaccine, can cure up to 90 per cent of chronically effected sheep, don’t have a slaughter withholding period and so far have been mainly used as an aid to footrot eradication, but could be used for control programs,” Dr Jackson said.
“Laboratory sampling to determine which of the 10 serogroups are present is essential before ordering vaccine.”
The permission of a chief veterinary officer is required to use the vaccine in NSW, South Australia and Western Australia.
Dr Jackson said the vaccine would not be the cure for the disease but would aid in control methods for sheep producers.
“I think this vaccine will suit producers with one or two serogroups but about half the flocks we have tested have more than two and not many producers are prepared to do two rounds of vaccinating,” he said.
“Eradication also depends on good final culling inspections, so the answer is no, not on its own, will certainly assist on many properties but will not on its own eradicate from a region.
“Using a monovalent or bivalent vaccine should pay.”
With footrot rapidly spreading through pasture and mud in spring and autumn, Dr Jackson said at least half a dozen producers in Tasmania were using vaccine or just about to.
According to University of Melbourne Mackinnon Project’s John Webb Ware, footrot is one of the most costly diseases producers deal with, costing up to $3-4 per head per year to manage the disease.
Dr Webb Ware said it was essential to correctly identify the strain of footrot present, which could be difficult for the untrained eye – in the early stages benign footrot can look very similar to the virulent strain but won’t develop any further.
“It’s in the interest of producers and the industry to control it for the financial and welfare implications, but it’s the virulent strains that we are concerned about that cause economic losses, restrict trade and affect the welfare of sheep,” Dr Webb Ware said.