INTERDIGITAL DERMATITIS 1280 720 Kingsley Emmanuel Bentum

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Interdigital dermatitis is a condition that leads to lameness in sheep and goats and is often a predisposing factor to footrot. It is sometimes referred to as Benign Footrot. It is a mixed bacterial infection however, Dichelobacter nodosus has been recognized as the major cause of this condition. Other causal factors of this disease include wet weather, muddy pens, and damp pastures. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and laboratory testing.


The interdigital skin is red and swollen and may be seen as covered with a thin layer of white exudate. The hoof capsule may be shed in very severe cases. Chronic infections can lead to lameness and formation of misshapen hooves.


The use of topical aerosol antibiotic sprays have proven to be very effective. In farm herds where large numbers have been affected, the whole flock can be treated with 10% Zinc Sulphate solution or 3% formalin in a footbath. High concentrations of formalin greater than 5% can cause irritations. Sheep must be made to stand in a dry area for the formalin or the zinc sulphate to dry on the feet. Footbaths  must be repeated (after a week or two). There is no need to attempt foot trimming.


ORF IN RUMIMANTS 1280 720 Kingsley Emmanuel Bentum

Orf is a highly transmissible viral disease of sheep and goats with zoonotic potential (i.e. it can be transferred to humans). It has numerous names such as Sore Mouth Disease, Contagious Ecthyma or Scabby Mouth. Orf belongs to the Poxviridae family. Animals get infected through direct contact with affected animals as they interact. Other sources of transmission include from mother to young animals through the teats and through broken skin or wounds as animals graze and feed.  


Lesions normally start as small reddened patches around the mouth, muzzle, teats and legs, which begin to produce a clear fluid. The fluid eventually hardens into a thickened scab which dries up and drops off after 2-3 weeks. The scab in the early stages is firmly attached. Forceful removal of the scab leads to bleeding. When lesions are formed on the udder and teats, nursing mothers may not allow young ones to suckle. Such young ones will require supplemented feed to survive.  

Humans contract the disease when they come in contact with equipment contaminated with the virus. People with close contact to livestock are highly exposed to this virus.


Maintain high biosecurity protocols on farm. Quarantine new animals brought into the farm, as well as affected animals to limit spread of infection. The disease in small ruminants is self-limiting and supportive care is usually given to affected animals. Contact your vet for advice when your animals start exhibiting similar signs.  There are vaccines available, however they are only used in areas where outbreaks have occurred. Vaccine protection is not lifelong but will reduce severity of the disease when it occurs.


DIARRHOEA IN NEWLY BORN RUMINANTS CAUSED BY E.coli 1280 720 Kingsley Emmanuel Bentum

Diarrhoea in newly born ruminants caused by Escherichia coli (E.coli) remains as one of the common conditions of newborns which sometimes leads to death.

E. coli, is a bacterium which naturally resides in the intestines of living organisms and aid in digestion. There are however some strains of E. coli (Enterotoxigenic E. coli and Enteropathogenic E. coli) that cause severe infection especially in the early lives (normally within the first week) of calves and lambs. The infection is sometimes complicated with other pathogens such as Clostridium perfringens and Rota virus.

Enterotoxigenic E. coli release enterotoxins which disrupts the osmotic balance of the gut cells, leading to excess fluid secretion into the lumen of the gut, resulting in diarrhoea.  

Enteropathogenic E. coli affect the intestinal lining, leading to ulcers and erosions of the intestinal walls. Some of these strains of E. coli release toxins (verotoxin) which enhance the erosions of the intestinal mucosa leading to hemorrhages.

Clinical Signs

Diarrhoea (very clear watery stool or bloody)

– Dehydration

– Death

– Lethargy

– Fever

Treatment and Prevention

– Practice good hygiene especially in delivery pens

– Ensure young animals get colostrum especially during the first week of life. Kids (baby goats)  are however resistant to this infection.

Affected animals are usually given supportive therapy with antibiotics after sensitivity testing has been carried out.


BLACK LEG/ BLACK QUARTER DISEASE 1280 720 Kingsley Emmanuel Bentum

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This is a highly fatal disease of farm animals including cattle, sheep, goats and horses. It is caused by the bacterium, Clostridium chauvoei (Cl.chauvoei). The disease is characterized by severe swelling and necrosis of affected muscles (especially those of the hind quarters).

Clostridium chauvoei spores can be found in the soil. Drastic changes in the weather such as droughts and floods can expose the bacterial spores which are ingested by animals during feeding. After an animal comes in contact with the bacterium, the organism travels through the digestive system, enters the blood stream and is finally deposited in the muscle and other vital organs such as the spleen and liver. The bacterium can also enter the body through wounds and scratches (especially in small ruminants). Once it enters the body, it produces toxins which are deadly to the host animal.

Signs of Black Leg disease include sudden death of farm animal, fever, depression, lameness (especially the hind quarters) with extensive and painful swelling of the affected limb. Crackling sounds may be heard when affected limbs are touched due to accumulated gas in the muscles (emphysema). Animals usually die within 48 hours after signs of disease are evident.  

Black Leg/Black Quarter disease can be diagnosed through culture, fluorescent antibody test and necropsy.

Treatment of Black Quarter disease is effective when detected early. Contact your veterinarian when you notice similar signs in your farm animals.

To control the spread of this disease, carcasses affected with this disease should be burned completely or buried deeply. Lime or other disinfectants should be sprinkled over the carcass during the burial period.



There are several breeds of sheep across the globe with varying uniqueness based on their geographical location and purpose. One of the major things to consider in starting a small ruminant farm in Ghana is the breed of animal. This article will provide detailed information on the two major breeds of sheep we have in Ghana.

The Sahel -type/The West African Long-legged:

This breed of sheep is mostly found in the northern part of Africa including Mali and Niger, and also in the northern parts of Ghana. The Sahel-type are tall with very long legs, bulky and have pendulous ears. The average female can weigh over 30kg. They however have poor mutton constitution. They are usually white and brown, white, or white and black in colour. The males do not have manes but have distinctive twisted horns. The females lack horns (polled). The high body mass of this breed makes them a breed of choice for many farmers across the nation.

The West African Dwarf/ The West African Maned /Djallonke:

West African Dwarf, popularly known as the Djallonke breed is also classified as one of the savannah – type West African Sheep, and it is the dominant sheep type in countries like Ghana and Nigeria. They are smaller in size with an average weight of 25kg. The Djallonke breed can be found in varying black and white patterns. However, some of them may be all white in colour. The rams have well developed manes with curved horns. The females usually lack horns (polled) or may have very short slender horns. The growth rate of the Djallonke breed is relatively slow but they are very hardy and disease resistant, especially to trypanosomiasis.

Over the years, there have been a continuous introduction of some other foreign breeds in the sub-region. Nevertheless, the above discussed remain the most common and well adapted breeds.