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Best practice on spent sheep dip and footbath solutions


The practice of sheep dipping either during summer or winter or both is an important annual practice on sheep farms throughout the country. Mary Roache, Teagasc ASSAP advisor lists best practice sheep dipping guidelines here with the protection of water in mind.

Sheep dipping products containing chemical compounds such as organophosphates (OP’s) and cypermethrin are extremely effective in their jobs of eliminating and preventing a number of serious sheep ectoparasites, namely blow fly (bluebottle) strike, lice, keds, ticks and sheep scab. Parasites such as bluebottles are insects and the sheep dipping products used are called insecticides, which effectively target and kill their target organism.

Best practice when using sheep dips have gained increased attention in recent times, primarily due to active ingredients such as cypermethrin been detected in our waterways. When cypermethrin is detected in our streams and rivers, we can conclude that the aquatic living insects will have been eliminated. This has serious consequences for the health of other species (fish, birds, small mammals, humans) that are reliant on aquatic insects as part of the overall food chain.

So before you go organising your next sheep dipping day, please follow the best practice sheep dipping guidelines with the protection of water in mind.

Best Practice sheep dipping guidelines

  1. Make sure you pick a dry, sunny day, with relatively good drying conditions.
  2. Identify your holding field/ paddock for your sheep after dipping, there should be no open drain or watercourse adjacent to this area
  3. Check that your tank is sound and leak-proof, with no structural cracks or defects.
  4. Ewes should be allowed to stand for 10-15 minutes in the adjoining drip pen when they emerge from the dipping tank, to allow dripping solution funnel back to the tank. This should be a concreted area.
  5. Sheep should be kept in the holding field/paddock for at least 24 hours to make sure that they dry effectively, so to prevent any chance of any sheep dip product ending up in a drain or watercourse.
  6. After dipping - wash and brush the dung from the adjoining drip pen stand thoroughly to ensure that no debris including wool enter any drain or waterbody. The brush used should be soaked in water a number of times and rinsed well.
  7. Empty dip containers and opening caps/ foil should be safely disposed of after use.
  8. Spent sheep dip should be mixed 1:3 parts either with slurry or water and land spread by a tanker at the rate not exceeding 1760 gals/ acre (20’000l per Ha.).
  9. In no circumstances should spent dip be disposed of if there is no facility or slurry tanker available to spread the dip.
  10. These recommendations are also relatable to pour-ons which use active ingredients such as cypermethrin. Pour-ons when sprayed on fleece should be allowed to dry effectively before allowing sheep go back to open hill or mountainous areas or any lowland areas where watercourses are present. As with dipping, sheep should be kept in the holding field/paddock for at least 24 hours before return to hill or areas containing watercourses.
  11. Injectable products to control ectoparasites should be considered where dipping is not feasible. Please check and consult with your local veterinary practitioner for advice.
  12. Mobile spraying or dipping is an option and the same principles above apply.
  13. Careful disposal of spent foot bath solution is also extremely important, involving either formalin, copper sulphate or zinc sulphate. Please read manufacturer’s instructions carefully regarding health and safety procedures when using and also on recommendations on safe disposal of spent solution. Products must be disposed of according to the data sheet.

Teagasc Advisors are regular contrbutors of articles on topics of interest to farmers here on Teagasc Daily 

For more on the topic of Dipping Sheep and the correct disposal for the spent dip afterwards see this article and video: CatchmentCare & Teagasc Sheep Dipping Demonstration

More information from Teagasc on Flock Health can be found here

See more here on Farming for water quality ASSAP