Joint Ill in Lambs


How Joint ill in Lambs affects their health

“An overwhelming number of lambs fall prey to a common condition called ‘joint ill’, a bacterial infection in the joints of lambs transmitted via wounds created from ear tagging, castration and docking sites or after entering the body through the umbilical cord.  These infections can be fatal or cause paralysis if untreated. Muddy conditions allow small wounds to fester in their feet and the cold causes their immune system to falter giving the bacteria a distinct advantage”. Dr Robert Gropel MVSc

Joint ill is a common affliction affecting lamb health. If detected early enough, however, it can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Left untreated it can result in the death of the lamb. 

When young Stella arrived into the care of Lamb Care Australia she was in a world of pain. Severely affected by untreated joint ill, Stella’s young joints were swollen more than we had ever seen before in any lamb. She could not be touched anywhere without crying out in pain. 

Although we did everything we could to reduce her pain and cure her illness, little Stella was beyond help and the only compassionate path was to have her euthanized. Stella lost her life to an easily treatable illness that was left to fester and grow.

The Victorian Farmers Federation also states that prevention of this illness is possible by minimising bacterial contamination of wounds and by keeping lambing paddocks well drained and free of mud with adequate grass cover. A second preventative measure is to have ewes vaccinated so they will transfer passive immunity to their lambs through the colostrum or first milk. NSHMP-Arthritis.pdf (

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