Project number:                    6120018011

Lead contractor:                   University of Liverpool

Start and end date:             01 January 2016 – 31 December 2018


The Problem:

Current estimates of lameness prevalence in sheep flocks in England & Wales are 10% (Kaler et al 2008) with an estimated cost £24million per annum.  The Farm Animal Welfare Council has challenged the sheep industry to reduce lameness prevalence to less than 5% by 2016 and 2% by 2021. Until recently, research efforts have been focused on the control of one major cause of lameness, footrot. Consequently, most of the current evidence-based veterinary medicine lameness control advice based on footrot.

The emergence of contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD) as a major new lameness problem in the UK is a new and important challenge.  35% – 53% farms in England and Wales report CODD.  There is little current evidence based advice available for CODD control, which impacts on lameness control.


Aims and Objectives:

  • Determine differences of the bacterial microbiome of feet between CODD and healthy sheep
  • Identify temporal changes in bacterial microbiome of sheep’s feet during (and after) naturally occurring outbreaks of CODD
  • Assess role of the immune response of sheep during naturally occurring outbreaks of CODD
  • Measure the effect of systemic antibiotic treatment on the microbiome of sheep’s feet affected by CODD
  • Examine the local environment for presence of bacteria of interest.



A group of store lambs will be sourced from a farm with no history of CODD.  Four lambs with CODD lesions will be introduced to the group and the lambs will be monitored daily for clinical signs of CODD.

All feet will be swabbed weekly for microbiological assessment and the lambs will be blood sampled monthly for immunological testing.

The lambs will be treated with antibiotics and foot and bacteriological monitoring will continue to look at the impact of treatment.