More than a third of NI farms had sheep scab in last five years

More than a third of NI farms had sheep scab in last five years

More than a third of Northern Ireland farmers admitted to having had at least one outbreak of sheep scab in their flock within the last five years, it has been revealed.

A survey found that 39% of farmers believed scab was introduced to their flock via a purchased animal and some also reported their most recent outbreak had cost them more than £2,500.

“For example, some farmers rely on clinical signs alone to rule out the possibility that newly purchased sheep are infested with sheep scab before mixing them with their flock. This activity poses a high risk for introducing sheep scab into previously uninfected flocks.”

An inadequacy of some farmer’s quarantine rules, or inability to follow them, was also reported as being the cause of flock infestation. He said adopting strict quarantine procedures for any incoming sheep and understanding the entire contamination route were vital to curb its spread.

Mr Crawford explained: “The sheep scab mite can live off sheep for 16- 17 days, so quarantine isn’t just as simple as putting sheep in a separate field; it is about understanding the entire contamination route. This includes everything sheep come into contact with from the trailer through to fences in the yard.”

When in quarantine, he recommended that animals remained there for 3-4 weeks and two weeks after arrival, blood testing 12 animals from each group using the blood ELISA test. This would indicate whether the group of sheep had been exposed to scab and whether treatment was necessary.

The vet also expressed his disappointment at how many poor treatments were reported in the survey.

“It highlighted that there’s still work to be done to remove any misunderstanding around treatments and to keep reinforcing the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) guidelines.”