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Footrot is a foot disease of cattle, sheep and goats. The disease in sheep and goats, however, differs from the condition known as footrot or interdigital necrobacillosis in cattle.

In sheep and goats, footrot is a contagious bacterial infection caused by the pathogen Dichelobacter nodosus. Footrot in sheep is classified as benign, intermediate or virulent.

In cattle, footrot is a painful bacterial cellulitis of the foot. It is associated with infection caused by Fusobacterium necrophorum and other bacteria. 

Footrot is a notifiable disease in some states of Australia.

In sheep, footrot regulations vary between states regarding diagnosis and management.

Conditions when footrot is likely to occur

  • wet, warm environments that allow footrot to express
  • Merinos are more susceptible to footrot than British-breed sheep
  • in feedlots when conditions are wet and muddy.

Identification and diagnosis

Footrot should be suspected in lame animals, especially if conditions are wet, warm or muddy.

Clinical signs that would lead you to suspect Footrot include the following:

Sheep and goats

  • multiple animals lame in multiple feet.
  • moist, red skin between the claws
  • slight to severe underrunning (i.e. separation) of horn from hoof. Starts at the heel, then spreads to the sole, toe and eventually to the outer wall
  • rotten cheese-type odour
  • infected feet can also become flyblown.


  • sudden lameness in multiple animals in multiple feet
  • swelling of the interdigital space and coronet
  • foul smelling, necrotic ulcer apparent in the interdigital cleft when inspected.


An integrated approach to prevent footrot should consider the following:

  • developing and implementing a farm biosecurity plan
  • inspecting the feet of as many sheep as possible before purchase
  • purchasing sheep with an animal health statement/valid footrot vendor declaration
  • placing sheep in quarantine on arrival
  • inspecting rams before putting with the ewes
  • cleaning and disinfecting boots after walking on ground where infected animals have been
  • preventing muddy conditions developing in feedlot pens.