New sheep scab order changing culture

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A CROSS industry group says Scotland is continuing its fight against sheep scab.

The notifiable disease is spread by mites and causes skin irritation and discomfort to infected animals.

A spokesman for the group said: “It represents a huge welfare concern for Scottish sheep and a big treatment cost burden to producers.”

A new Sheep Scab (Scotland) Order came into force in December 2010 which requires flock owners or their veterinary surgeons to notify the authorities of any affected or suspect cases.

Since then 220 cases have been reported, with 76 recorded so far in the second year of the new law.

NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller, who farms at Stow, said: “Scotland’s new sheep scab order has provided a worthwhile tool for disease reporting and control and is helping to change the culture on sheep farms.

“A year and a half into the new scheme has allowed a picture of incidence to be built up and the map of disease prevalence is becoming clearer. From the map, we can see that there are widespread problems and significant issues seem to be focused in regions where lambs are traditionally fed and finished. This highlights the importance of appropriate biosecurity and treatment protocols on units where large numbers of sheep are bought in.

“From the map, some low incidence areas are also emerging and the door may be open in these parts to develop regional scab-free zones.

“Farmers themselves deserve credit for the work they are doing to beat the disease. The majority of cases are self reported, showing that sheep farmers are taking their responsibilities seriously and suggesting that some of the stigma associated with the disease is reducing.

“Farmers reporting the discovery of the disease on their own unit means that the keeper and the farm vet remain in control and ensures that neighbours are brought into the control web by Trading Standards and Animal Health Officers.

“Self-reporting is positive but the next stage is breaking down the barriers attached to reporting disease in neighbouring flocks and pushing them into tackling the disease.

“The group has made great strides in tackling this disease in the past 18 months and the message to all sheep producers is maintain vigilance and continue to report incidents of this dreadful disease.”

Scottish Agricultural College’s (SAC) Brian Hosie, formerly at the college’s Greycrook site at St Boswells, said: “The effective treatment and control of sheep scab requires an accurate diagnosis. Flockowners should contact their veterinary surgeon if they are uncertain.”

The Scottish Sheep Scab working group is a cross industry group with representatives from Scottish Government, vets, auctioneers, meat marketing group Quality Meat Scotland, the National Sheep Association, SSPCA, SEPA, the Scottish Organic Producers Association, SAC, Moredun, forestry and local councils.