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Advice on Orf to Prevent Losses in Your Flock

Advice on Orf

Advice on Orf from Rebecca Vallis BVetMed MRCVS, Farm Vet South Molton

Act now to prevent losses from Orf.

Unfortunately Orf, or Scabby Mouth as it is also known, is a disease that affects many flocks in both lambs and ewes.  Orf can strike at any time, but is particularly prevalent in young lambs that can pass on the virus to their mothers through suckling.  The virus causes painful scabs in lambs’ mouths and around their nostrils, in ewes these scabs are usually found on teats and often lead to mastitis.  
The virus can quickly spread through the flock leading to decreased lamb growth rates, increased mastitis levels and increased mortality.  When dealing with the disease it is important to adopt a ‘two pronged’ approach; focussing firstly on management of affected animals, followed by prevention of future outbreaks.
As Orf is of viral origin it will not respond directly to antibiotic drugs, however as damaged skin is susceptible to secondary bacterial infection severely affected animals may benefit from antibiotic treatment, following veterinary advice.  Anti-inflammatories should also be considered e.g. in the case of a ewe refusing to allow her lambs to suckle due to teat pain. Management of infected animals should focus on keeping lesions clean and on good fly control to prevent further infection of damaged skin and spread of virus. Where practical, infected sheep should be separated from uninfected sheep however as the virus can survive in the environment further cases should always be expected.
Preventing the disease is much easier than dealing with an outbreak.  An effective vaccine (Scabivax-MSD) is available for sheep which, if used correctly, will allow lambs and ewes to generate the immunity required to resist new infections.  If Orf has been a problem in previous years, now is the time to focus on minimising your risk for the coming season.  Veterinary advice should be sought to discuss the suitability of vaccination on your farm and the precautions required.

Source Details

 Rebecca Valis, Farm Vet South Molton BVetMed MRCVS.

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