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Lameness: a critical issue for ewe and lamb health

Lameness negatively impacts not only welfare but sheep performance too.  Persistent lameness can lead to reduced weight gain, metabolic diseases in pregnant ewes, reduced birthweight of lambs, mis-mothering and poor colostrum production by ewes (Harwood et al., 1997; Henderson, 1990).   The subsequent cost alone of lameness to the sheep industry is estimated to be €5 million annually.  Footrot is the most common cause of lameness and is present on over 90% of farms.  Other common conditions implicated in lameness include scald and contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD).  Scald, which is a precursor to footrot, is often characterised by reddening and loss of hair between the hooves; it can be easily controlled by appropriate foot bathing.  Farmers who implement an effective footbathing and topical application plan will benefit from a reduction in lameness and increase in profits.  Correct diagnosis should be performed by veterinary practitioner.

Sheep Footbathing – Use a tried and tested Solution

A comparative bioassay in a study by Queens University Belfast indicated that Provita Hoofsure Endurance was most effective in destroying bacteria, even in the presence of contamination.  Its antibacterial activity is more effective than the most commonly used copper sulfate and formaldehyde.  The study also confirmed that 400 sheep passes can be achieved through a 100 litre footbath provided depth is maintained.  In a separate independent clinical study from a renowned bio-sciences institute on the effectiveness of footbath solutions in sheep found that 65% of sheep improved after one pass through a footbath containing Hoofsure Endurance at 2% dilution rate.


Sheep Topical Application

Effective topical products play an important role in a lameness control plan.  For larger and more chronic lesions, Hoofsure Konquest can be used.  Provita developed Hoofsure Konquest hoof gel in conjunction with Queens University Belfast.  Konquest hoof gel is a concentrated proprietary blend of organic acids and essential oils.  It is formulated to possess bio-adhesive and potent penetrating action so it sticks to the skin and hoof and effectively gets to the source of infection.


Hoofsure Combat is a unique film-forming spray which provides long-lasting activity and aids the healing process.  For use on scald and to decrease re-infection, a high number of applications is available in each bottle making it cost-effective.  Both Konquest and Combat are anti-biotic and copper free!


Written by George Shaw, MPharm MPSNI, Technical Adviser,, 07841 926219.  References available on request

For more information FREEPHONE 0800 328 4982 or


ProVitaMin Sheep Drench is champion for top Suffolk breeder

The month of August is nearly behind us and pedigree sheep sales have commenced with good trade seen for quality, well-bred stock.  Preparations for 2020 lambing season are certainly in full swing with the acquisition of sought after bloodlines for both pedigree and commercial breeders.  With planning ongoing on the breeding side, consideration should be given to the animal health planning now prior to breeding, with results carrying through to lambing time. Vitamin and mineral status of breeding ewes, and do not forget rams, will impact on scanning rates and lambing spread.  Therefore application of a quality vitamin and mineral like ProVitaMin Sheep drench will boost these parameters.William Tait breeds pedigree Suffolk sheep near the Gortin Glen, Co. Tyrone under the flock prefix of Burnview.  William breeds a select batch of approximately 60 ewes every year with the view to selling 50 rams and 50 females each year.  His aim is to take a pen to Kelso and Stirling sales, locally at Ballymena export sale and some of his very best across to the National Suffolk show in Shrewsbury each year.  William is a definitely a seasoned participant in Suffolk shows and sales, taking multiple prizes at Balmoral Show 2019.  He was extremely pleased to be placed Reserved Champion at the National Show this past July, which later went for 6,600gns when the hammer fell.  This ram lamb was 6th place at the Balmoral Show 2019 and is a full brother of the 10,000gns Burnview Bombay Sapphire sold at Stirling in 2018.

This small extract evidences the quality of sheep kept by William.  To take full advantage of these bloodlines, a good portion of the Burnview ewes will be bred by AI and others flushed for embryos to transfer to recipients. William was keen to point out, “this type of breeding practice is fairly  expensive and time-consuming, so to maximise the success rates and get the best returns we consciously drench ewes with ProVitaMin Sheep drench before AI, flushing and embryo transfer. Since using the drench the results have been excellent and we contribute a lot of the success to the healthy vitamin/mineral status of our sheep with ProVitaMin use.”  William continued, “ProVitaMin Sheep drench is also used on all lambs before weaning and thereafter to boost weight gain and overall condition so they are in the best shape for shows and sales.  It is a versatile drench and with the small volume application a bottle goes a long way.”

ProVitaMin Sheep drench is manufactured in Provita’s feed approved facility in Omagh, only a small number of miles from the Burnview flock.  ProVitaMin Sheep Drench contains 24 vitamins and minerals in a concentrated mixture (10ml maximum feed per ewe) for ease-of-use and value for money. Each vitamin and mineral is carefully sourced so they are of the highest quality and, importantly available in a form that will be readily absorbed by the animal for maximum effects.

Users of ProVitaMin continue to see fantastic results which is well received by George Shaw, Technical Adviser.  “It is very pleasing to see local farmers like William Tait reaping the benefits of Provita’s vitamin/mineral drenches.  William and everyone involved at Burnview flock put a lot of effort into the breeding, preparation and showing of their sheep and from these results it is paying dividends.  Using ProVitaMin Sheep drench is a small part of that management but it is having big results. It would be fair to say that if you put quality stock and quality products together, you will get a winning result!”

Written by George Shaw, MPharm MPSNI, Technical Adviser,, 07841 926219.

For more information FREEPHONE 0800 328 4982 or

Tackle lameness before it hits your bottom line

The current grazing season has been a stark contrast to 2018 for many, with plentiful grass supplies available to grazed livestock throughout the country.  Even this can have its drawbacks, especially for lambs, with a greater likelihood of scald occurring.  Recent weeks have seen increased enquiries to Provita relating to sheep lameness and the Hoofsure range.  Unfortunately lamb prices lately have dropped but positively this past week that trend has reversed for a much needed lift.  That being said margins are tighter, therefore to carry any number of lame sheep will have a significant impact on profits due to treatment cost, reduction in weight gain and greater amount of days spent on farm.

Hoofsure Endurance can be used as a 25% topical spray in conjunction with or as an alternative to footbathing in dairy cattle.  Provita Konquest gel is a unique concentrated blend with potent penetrating action and advanced bio-adhesion properties.  It can be used with or without a bandage on those larger lesions.  Provita Combat is a unique film-forming spray which provides long-lasting activity and aids the healing process. It contains a unique blend of organic acids and essential oils for maximum effect.


Topical application – CATTLE

While footbathing plays a vital role in preventing many lameness conditions, topical applications to lesions are required where infection rates or pressure are high.  Even with an effective foot bathing programme, the incidence of Digital Dermatitis (DD) on any given farm will have intermittent spikes.  This may be due to stocking rate changes, increased calving periods, seasonal factors, etc.  The best way to manage lesions associated with DD is to identify them early and treat directly.  Early intervention prior to onset of lameness can resolve the lesion quickly and avoid much of the unnecessary associated economic loss.  For instance, a typical DD case will cost £99 per case (AHDB source) due to treatments costs, milk loss and reduced fertility performance. For immature lesions, Provita have developed a unique non-antibiotic spray, namely Hoofsure Combat.  This topical spray plaster acts rapidly on contact to form a waterproof film which seals out dirt and bacteria thus stopping re-infection while allowing natural healing.  This can be applied on consecutive days for up to 1 week as required.  Hoofsure Konquest gel is for those larger lesions (>2cm) which may require a light bandage application.  A 24 hour contact time with the infectious lesion is ample time for treatment and avoids leaving tight bandages on for longer than necessary which can have negative effects.  Also Konquest contains no antibiotics with the added benefit of no milk withdrawal period.

As Summer 2019 draws to an end (*sigh*) and we edge ever closer to autumn/winter rehousing, this presents an ideal opportunity to put in a concerted effort to tackle any lameness concerns.  This means farms will be starting from a healthy low base of lameness before housing, making it easier to reduce and manage any unwanted spikes.

Topical application – SHEEP

With recent guidance saying that foot trimming does not have a place for controlling infectious lameness in sheep (Farmers Weekly 26-7-19).  In fact latest research  has shown it may exacerbate the problem and lead to the spread of infectious bodies via equipment and between sheep.  Thus the use of effective topical treatments is more important, and Provita’s Combat spray and Konquest gel would have a role to play in any sheep lameness plan. The film-forming action of Combat makes it tremendously beneficial for scald treatment and prevents reinfection of area.  A high number of applications is available in each bottle making it cost-effective.  For those “harder to treat”, more chronic lesions, Konquest gel would be the chosen product. Available in 300g jars or 30g syringes for ease of use and works quickly to treat and reduce pain of lameness.

Written by George Shaw, MPharm MPSNI, Technical Adviser,, 07841 926219.  *references available on request

For more information FREEPHONE 0800 328 4982 or