Scotland Tackling Sheep Scab Threat

Press release on behalf of the Scottish Sheep Scab Working group

Scotland’s sheep producers are tackling the huge threat posed by sheep scab and are improving the health of the nation’s flock.

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.  

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.  These new rules present a route to reporting, controlling and, hopefully, eradicating this dreadful condition from Scottish flocks.

Reporting rates remain steady with 76 cases of sheep scab reported so far in the second year of the new legislation, bringing the total number of cases reported in Scotland to 220 cases since the Order was introduced.  All reports are important to establish where hotspots are and to identify potentially disease-free areas.

Scotland’s Sheep Scab Working Group is committed to working towards eradication and is delighted with the impact that the new order has had.

NFU Scotland President, Nigel Miller 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 focussed 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.” 

Jane Ellis, Technical/scheme manager for the Scottish Organic Producers Organisation said:

“Scottish Organic Producers Association is very pro-active about treating and preventing scab, not only for flock health but also to dispel any perceived risks of scab on organic farms.”

Notes to editors

  • The Scottish Sheep Scab working group is a cross industry group with representatives from Scottish Government, vets, auctioneers, QMS, NSA, SSPCA, SEPA, SOPA, Forestry, Local Authorities, Moredun, SAC.  The group met on 28 August to discuss this year’s reported incidence.
  • 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.
  • A copy of the Scottish incidence map is available.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 95/12

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