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Author Topic: Orf?  (Read 14520 times)

in the hills

  • Joined Feb 2012
« on: August 13, 2012, 07:29:25 pm »
A couple of days ago one of my ewes had what appeared to be a few crusty looking scabs along the edge of her lip. We applied some vaseline, mainly to keep the flies off, and the area has now healed. However, when checking her today, we spotted a similar thing in 3 other ewes. Again, crusty looking areas and in one ewe there appeared to be a couple of areas that look a bit like cold sores ..... just under her nostrils. I have seen them nibbling the tops out of thistles (a few that I have missed pulling) and they are always browsing the hedges.

Any ideas? Could it be Orf? Nothing visible on any of the lambs yet. Or could it be a reaction to some vegetation that the lambs aren't eating?

Thanks in advance for any help.


  • Joined Mar 2010
  • Just when I thought I'd settled down...!
Re: Orf?
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2012, 07:47:04 pm »
Can you get a picture at all? It might help. It does sound like it could be orf though. Do you vaccinate against it?

in the hills

  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Orf?
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2012, 07:52:18 pm »
Thanks YL. Will ask hubbie to post some as soon as he can.

No, don't vaccinate. Did ask vet about this when I first got the girls a couple of years ago. He said not to vaccinate unless you had orf on your land already. As far as I know the land had only been grazed by cattle for quite a number of years. Should I have vaccinated?


  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: Orf?
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2012, 07:55:55 pm »
Orf is a virus anyway and the scratches appear to be of limited effecacy from what I've heard. A rough salt lick.appears to clear it up as well as anything. Try and find the rouhest bucket lick you can. Brinicombe do a tubby specifically for this.

in the hills

  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Orf?
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2012, 08:29:25 pm »
Here are a couple of pictures we have taken of the stricken sheep :-

Re: Orf?
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2012, 08:49:33 pm »

Looks like a mild case of orf to me - dont touch with your bare hands !

Two preparations on the market specifically for orf are ovaloid capsules and orph paste

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  • Joined May 2012
  • Stafford
Re: Orf?
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2012, 09:02:21 pm »
Orf is a virus anyway and the scratches appear to be of limited effecacy from what I've heard. A rough salt lick.appears to clear it up as well as anything. Try and find the rouhest bucket lick you can. Brinicombe do a tubby specifically for this.

Sounds like orf to me, the Brinicombe tubbys do work very well, I find the best prevention is a lump of rock salt in the field all the time. I've been using red lump rock salt for 5 years now and not had orf in the sheep since.

Re: Orf?
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2012, 09:04:24 pm »
Once a sheep has recovered from orf it wont get it again.

Most problems in sheep with orf come from secondary infections. - Safe Secure shopping for all your livestock equipment and supplies.
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  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Cumbria/N Yorks border
Re: Orf?
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2012, 09:47:26 pm »
Copied from my reply in the Goats section. All I'd say is that if it's mild, as per your photos, just let it get on with itself and they'll become resistant. Below is if it becomes severe.

For now, all you can do is help it heal and make sure it doesn't get infected. Iodine spray, which you can get from the feedstore, is good. People swear by all sorts, Daz washing powder, vinegar......

Keep an eye that it doesn't get infected (the iodine will help with that too) but you can use blue antibiotic footspray from the vets if it does. Good stuff to have about anyway.

It will spread. And it can spread to you too, so wear latex gloves or use an alcohol handwash when you're dealing with them, don't scratch your face, and careful it isn't you that spreads it from one to the other - the waterless handwashes are better than gloves in that respect.

In future, you can 'scratch' against it, which is vaccine, because once it's on your holding you've got it. Talk to your vet about that next spring, as you do lambs and kids around 3 months old - you can do your adults then too, they only need it once.


  • Joined Jul 2011
  • Port O' Menteith, Stirlingshire
Re: Orf?
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2012, 09:58:38 pm »
Spray with alamycin (blue) spray. Doesn't look great for a day or so but it works well. You can get orf buckets to stop your stock getting orf or for any outbreak spreading too much.
It's always worse for someone else, so get your moaning done before they start using up all the available symathy!


  • Joined Mar 2012
  • Mintlaw
Re: Orf?
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2012, 06:42:43 am »
I got orf in my sheep just after lambing about 3 or 4 years ago. I sprayed the lambs with terymicin spray which dried the sores up I injected the ewes although I did not see any sores with Long acting penicillin.
Everything cleared up quite quickly, I did call the vet in as I started to question my own actions but she said I had done the right thing. The only thing she added was possibly as soon as seeing some animals had orf I should have tried to isolate the effected animals.
The other thing the vet said was that the vaccines against orf actually introduce orf and she did not think this was a good idea, especially at that time.
Hope this helps.


  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Cumbria/N Yorks border
Re: Orf?
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2012, 09:33:43 am »
Yes, the vaccines are 'live' so introduce a mild version of it. So it's quite a commitment, because then you have to vaccinate all susceptible animals on your holding, ie anything new and all lambs and kids.

If you've ever had animals with really bad orf though you'd do it in a flash. But for the ones in the photos, I wouldn't - theirs isn't bad at all and will be self-limiting, ie they'll heal without too much trouble I should think and then be immune. It might be that new animals and lambs get it as well - but if only like this then that's not a big problem.

Any orf gets better on its own (as do cold sores, same virus family), all you're doing in 'treating' is helping to dry up the sores and preventing secondary infections.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2012, 09:35:16 am by jaykay »


  • Joined Jan 2009
  • Pen Llyn
    • Viable Self
Re: Orf?
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2012, 01:42:39 pm »
Orf is a virus anyway and the scratches appear to be of limited effecacy from what I've heard.

It really depends on how badly your flock suffers from Orf. We have had increasing trouble with orf over recent years and after a really bad dose of it last year which set the lambs back enormously we decided to vaccinate this year.
The orf vaccine is scratched onto the skin surface on the bare patch of skin behind the lamb's elbow. This in effect infects them with orf, but in a place that they can't reach with their noses and won't come into contact with ewe's udders. If you then look a week or so later, you should see a small line of scabs on the line of the scratch. This indicates that the vaccine has been effective.

Since scratching for Orf for the first time this spring, we have only had one lamb with the virus, and this was one that had gone awol into a neighbour's field when the rest were vaccinated. Really pleased it has worked for us.

Worth re-iterating though, that you wouldn't vaccinate for it unless it is really causing problems with your flock on an annual basis.
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  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Thornbury, Nr Bristol
Re: Orf?
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2012, 02:34:00 pm »
Could be thistle prick - my ewes and lambs had this several years running after being in a field that had far too many thistles in it.  David Brinicombe have a tubby just for this thistle prick reaction - I used it on my small flock and the results were amazing after a week or so.    It does look very much like orf and it wasn't until I approached the David Brinicombe team that I had ever heard of thistle prick!  Trust sheep to get anything that's going!


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Orf?
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2012, 05:41:20 pm »
Orf is a virus so antibiotics have no effect whatsoever on the underlying infection.  They will however help the sheep fight any secondary, bacterial infection should there be any.

If you have orf in a batch, get them all onto soft grazing - no thistles or anything else scratchy - if at all possible. The virus enters through broken skin, so lambs eating thistles is a classic point of entry.

Watch your ewes carefully for any signs of sore udders - the lesions on the lambs' mouths can infect the udder if there are any nicks or abrasions there.  If this is your first year with orf, the ewes may not have any immunity, so could get an infection leading to mastitis if there is a secondary bacterial infection there.  If you have had orf on your farm for a while, the ewes will probably be immune, so hopefully there shouldn't be problems with udders, but keep an eye on it nonetheless.

For uninfected first stage lesions, Septiclense is as good as anything for keeping them clean and protecting against infection.  Iodine would be just as good.  (And Daz washing powder does work - don't ask me why Daz, but it does!)

Kept clean and off scratchy grazing, they should heal and be fine.  But it is very very sore, and if severe can block noses and make eating hard, not to mention passing infection from lambs' mouths onto ewes' udders, so if you find your farm has orf and you get more than one or two cases each year, then prevention is probably worth thinking about.

The vaccine does work but it has to be applied correctly.  It is a live vaccine, and has to be applied onto broken skin - you have to scratch really hard with the little jabby applicator, then we do a cross so that some of the vaccine is spread into the other arm of the cross.  We find the inside of the thigh to be a good place to do it - you need bare skin that you can pull taut so that you can break the skin with the applicator.  We tip the lambs on their bottoms to do it so we can see that we've made a good job of the scratch.

The vaccine will provide protection only to lambs which have not already become infected, of course - so may be of limited value in a batch that is already showing a lot of lesions.  But if you have a bad year with orf, you may want to vaccinate the following year as a preventative.  (We did this year, having had quite a few sore lambs last year.)

The tubby buckets are a mixed blessing.  On the downside, lambs congregating around the buckets can spread foot infections - and also orf!  ::)

If you haven't had orf yourself, then it is worth trying to avoid it - it is pretty painful.  But it really isn't the end of the world, and once you've had it you won't get it again, so don't be too worried about it. 

Started writing the above this morning and have just come back to complete it, of course to find some new posts since I started writing mine.  I think I'm probably just paraphrasing jaykay and VSS but since I've written it I'll post it anyway.  I haven't ever heard of thistle prick as distinct from orf, but it's possible. 
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