Producers Urged to Check Returning Sheep for Scab

Scottish sheep farmers are being urged to check stock returning to their farms for the presence of sheep scab.

This is the time of year when ewe hoggs traditionally return to hill farms after spending the winter on pasture in lowground areas.  However, recent storms and the start of lambing will have seen sheep farmers focus on finding and feeding stock.
That pressure may have made normal separation and scab treatment of hoggs near impossible and, in some cases, the weather will have forced groups of sheep to be mixed without the preferred checks being made. In these circumstances, hoggs taking sheep scab into hill flocks is a risk.

Once lambing pressure eases, Scotland’s Sheep Scab Action Group – which is facilitated by NFU Scotland - is encouraging hill sheep farmers unable to treat ewe hoggs for sheep scab in the normal manner to consider using the available tests to see if the whole flock may have been placed at risk.

NFU Scotland President, Nigel Miller said:
“Once the immediate pressures of lambing on hill units are over and ewe hoggs are being handled, it will be worth checking that a flock’s scab status hasn’t been compromised.   

“Farmers could consider, with their vets, using the sheep scab blood test, developed at the Moredun Research Institute, on a group of the returning ewe hoggs.  The results would indicate if animals have returned free of this horrible disease or whether they now pose a risk of introducing scab to the flock.”

“This type of screening gives all Scottish sheep farmers a new risk assessment tool to determine if and when treatment for scab is needed.”

Glasgow Vet School’s David Logue, a member of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) council in Scotland added:

"Yet again Scotland is showing that we can control our own destiny at least insofar as animal disease is concerned.  Farmers and shepherds are in the front line of this defence against sheep scab.  We are relying on them to spot and help control this obnoxious parasite by using the tools available and, where appropriate, adopt a co-ordinated approach with fellow farmers, vets and scientists that works towards eradication.”  
Notes to Editors

  • Sheep scab is a horrible, contagious disease spread by mites that causes significant irritation and discomfort to any infected animals. Although almost eradicated from the nation’s flock in the seventies, the disease is once again endemic in parts of Scotland.
  • The Scottish Sheep Scab working group is a cross industry group facilitated by NFU Scotland with representatives from Scottish Government, vets, auctioneers, QMS, NSA, SSPCA, SEPA, SOPA, Forestry, Local Authorities, Moredun, SRUC (formerly SAC).
  • The Sheep Scab (Scotland) Order was introduced in December 2010. It involves a large element of self-policing with a legal obligation on any person who suspects sheep in their possession or care may be infected by sheep scab to notify the local Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) office as soon as possible. Movement restrictions will then apply until the sheep are either treated, slaughtered or a negative veterinary diagnosis is obtained. If, however, problems are picked up at a market or by neighbours then conventional enforcement rolls out with local authority enforcement officers in control of the process.  Keepers who fail to take action then will have movement restrictions imposed on their flock and will be required to arrange for a veterinary investigation to be carried out at their own expense. They will also be required to either treat or slaughter animals, unless a negative diagnosis is received. They may be liable for prosecution if they fail to take action.
  • SAC Consulting: Veterinary Services (part of SRUC) continues to offer free sheep ectoparasite examination to assist veterinary surgeons confirm outbreaks of sheep scab and lice in flocks.  Blood samples submitted to SACCVS Disease Surveillance Centres from suspect flocks will be forwarded to the Moredun for examination.  The Scottish Government through the Veterinary and Advisory Services Programme financially supports their work.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 51/13

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