With new outbreaks of sheep scab being reported in the Aberdeenshire area, NFU Scotland is warning farmers across the whole of Scotland to be vigilant over the coming weeks and to protect their sheep stocks against possible outbreaks.
The mites responsible for sheep scab can cause misery to those sheep infected and can be extremely difficult to control. The irritation caused by the mites is a significant welfare issue, while an outbreak of sheep scab can reduce the productivity of the animals and have significant economic effects within a flock.
The two most common ways of introducing scab into a flock are new stock coming on to farm and contact with infected sheep on neighbouring farms. The traditional autumn movements of sheep onto farms therefore greatly increase this risk, and NFU Scotland is urging producers to take action now to prevent further sheep scab outbreaks.
Within weeks, new and more effective legislation to combat sheep scab will be introduced in Scotland. The Sheep Scab Order should allow more effective action to be taken on suspicion of the disease and is expected to come into force at the end of the year.
Nigel Miller, NFU Scotland Vice-President, and qualified vet said:
“Sheep scab is a very real threat in every part of the country. The next few weeks is a period when many sheep producers need to take specific action because of the increased threat of sheep scab spreading into flocks as new animals come onto farm.
“It is encouraging that the majority of farmers isolate new stock coming on their units, but I would urge everyone to take that step as a matter of routine. It is good practice for scab to be kept in check, either by injecting or dipping, within 48 hours of arrival and new animals kept separately for four weeks to allow treatments to take effect. If you don’t take these steps, it may only be a matter of time before the disease spreads to your main flock.
“Where scab is known to be a problem, it is also important that farmers work together during the autumn period. Co-ordinated treatment in local areas is an important step to prevent re-infection into sheep-keeping areas.
“Looking ahead, a successful long term strategy for dealing with scab relies on a partnership between government and industry and we are working closely with the Executive to take the work on sheep scab forward. We are anticipating that a new scab order will be coming out in December, which would open the door for action to be taken on suspicion alone. There is the opportunity for producers to take initiative themselves now and pre-empt this enforcement.”
Sheep scab is the popular name for psoroptic mange. Sheep scab was eradicated from the UK in 1952, but re-appeared in 1973. Dipping of sheep to prevent scab was compulsory until 1992.
Due to rising incidence of the disease, Scottish Government and stakeholders have looked at more effective legislation in an attempt to eradicate the disease. The new legislation is expected in December.
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