An all-industry group, supported by the Scottish Executive,
has urged farmers to be on their guard against sheep scab over
the next few weeks.
The traditional autumn movements of sheep onto farms increase
the risk of outbreaks. The warning from the Scottish Sheep Scab
Initiative comes as results from a nationwide survey emphasise
the threat posed by scab.
A recent survey by the Scottish Executive has recorded hundreds
of sheep scab outbreaks across Scotland in the last five years.
The 4520 farmers that responded to the survey reported 666 scab
cases (see notes for regional breakdown). Of those that had scab,
three-quarters knew the route of infection with the two most common
causes being new stock coming on to farm and contact with infected
sheep on neighbouring farms.
With new sheep being introduced on farms across the country following
Autumn sales, the Scottish Sheep Scab Initiative is urging producers
to isolate and treat animals accordingly, with a specific action
period between September 20 and November 10.
The Initiative has been co-ordinated by NFU Scotland for the last
three years and comprises agricultural organisations, government
representatives, auction marts, vets and pharmaceutical companies.
Discussions are now ongoing with the Executive to build upon this
work. The survey revealed farmers’ support for a co-ordinated
response to sheep scab, including the possible reintroduction of
compulsory treatment. Chairman of the Initiative is Nigel Miller,
who also chairs the NFUS Livestock Committee. He said:
“This is one of the most comprehensive animal disease surveys
undertaken and it highlights that scab is a very real threat in
every part of the country. The next few weeks is a specific action
period because of the increased threat of sheep scab spreading
into flocks as new animals come onto farm.
“I was encouraged to see that over 80 per cent of farmers
isolate new stock coming on farms, but I would urge everyone to
take that step as a matter of routine. Preferably, scab should
be treated, either by injecting or dipping, within 48 hours of
arrival and new animals kept separately for four weeks to allow
treatments to take effect. The message from the survey is clear
- if you don’t take these steps, it is a matter of time before
the disease reaches you.
“It is also important that farmers work together during
the action period as co-ordinated treatment in local areas can
“96 per cent of farmers who responded to the survey said
they knew where to go for advice and help on scab and all those
involved in the Sheep Scab Initiative can take some credit for
that. Successful disease strategy relies on a partnership between
government and industry and we are working closely with the Executive
take the work on sheep scab forward.”
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