Why is this research important for Alberta ag?
Contagious foot rot is a bacterial infection common in sheep and goats, caused by bacteria that lives in the soil. There is a high risk of contamination of uninfected soils when animals or producers from infected farms travel to other farms. This project will develop a baseline survey of Alberta sheep and goat producers to determine the frequency and severity of foot rot in their flocks and herds. The gathered information will determine the occurrence and potential risk factors associated with the disease.
Sheep and goat industry associations in Alberta have shared that disease is an issue, but before a vaccine is developed, researchers want to gather a better understanding of the disease from a larger number of Alberta producers.
As of January 2021, Canadian farms had 780,200 sheep/lambs, with 130,000 residing in Alberta. The last census in 2016 showed a goat population of 230,034, with 27,300 heads in Alberta. The incidence of foot rot in Alberta sheep flocks and goat farms is not currently known and the industry welcomes a survey that will not only assess the frequency of the disease, but also the need for a new vaccine. While there is currently a FootVax vaccine available in Europe, its test in Canada against local isolates showed low efficacy, is costly and difficult to import, and is not recommended for use on goats.
What benefits can Alberta producers expect from this research?
The results of this project will paint a picture of the importance of foot rot disease in Alberta sheep flocks and goat herds and potential risk factors associated with the disease that need to be taken into account when developing a future vaccine.
It will also inform researchers of producers' and veterinarians' opinions on the need for a new effective foot rot vaccine and attributes of the vaccine they would prefer (single dose, short drug test meat withdrawal period, low dose, etc.) Use of an effective vaccine to control foot rot would reduce economic losses from treatment costs, increased culling rates, and poor growth performance. Additionally, a reduction in antimicrobial usage would reduce the potential risk of antimicrobial resistance development.
How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?
Findings from this study will be presented to industry producers in the form of articles in industry extension resources (Alberta Sheep and goat association websites and ABVMA website). Information will also be available to the caprine/ovine industry through the VIDO website and VIDO annual reports. Producers and small ruminant veterinarians will be involved to help formulate the questions to include in the survey.
Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.