Following the breakdown of a couple of batches of Scabine last year and docking/tailing on the horizon, here’s a recap on scabby
mouth. 

  • Highly infectious viral disease
  • Causes scabs on sheep around the mouth, legs and udder
  • Can infect goats, deer and dogs
  • Can be transmitted to people, causing the disease called Orf.

Scabby mouth is transmitted by direct contact of infected sheep and through the  environment. The sheep must have broken skin to allow the virus to enter the body so rough feed, thistles and teeth coming through increase the changes of infection. The virus survives in the environment for a long time and can survive in carrier sheep. Once it appears on farm, the virus will most likely always exist there. On farms where there was an outbreak last season there will be a lot of virus in the pasture. 

The scabs can be severe enough to limit feed intake and thus decrease live weight gains. The infection spreads slowly through a flock so becomes a risk for older lambs close to sale - works lambs with scabby mouth are sent back home and infected store lambs can not be sold. In severely affected lambs treatment with iodine-based products will help control bacterial infection that can come in on top of scabby mouth. 

It may also affect the ewe’s udder, causing mastitis. Scabs may also appear around the lower legs, known as Strawberry footrot. In humans it causes blister like lesions that may or may not contain pus. Handling affected lambs is a risk factor, and should be avoided if possible.

From last years investigations we heard of many “treatments” for scabby mouth, all of which were said to work. It is unlikely that these “treatments” will kill the virus so prevention is the only option. For this season Scabine is off the market so we only have Scabigard available. Following a thorough product review we will not be selling Phenax. Like Scabine, Scabigard is a live vaccine. All live vaccines have a high risk of breakdowns occurring. Taking care with vaccine storage and use is important to reduce the chance of a breakdown occurring.

  • Keep the vaccine cool at all times:
    • Keep it in the fridge.
    • Use chilly bags and ice when taking it out for the day.
  • The scratch needs to break the skin but not draw blood.
  • Keep antiseptics away from the vaccine.
  • Avoid washing the vaccine off with dips – use inside front leg if possible.
  • Open vaccine has a 12 hour life.

To make sure the vaccine has worked examine 10 – 20 lambs 5-7 days after docking to check for scab formation. Care must be taken when administering these vaccinations as accidental self-vaccination

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