New NI sheep scab control project launched

New NI sheep scab control project launched

A new drive to tackle the scourge of sheep scab in Northern Ireland has been launched.

Starting in July, it will see vets, farmer and industry experts work together to tackle a disease which costs the UK farming industry up to £200m a year.

The Northern Ireland Sheep Scab Group has now joined up with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI), and Moredun Research Institute to launch the £220,000 initiative, funded with a grant from The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Paul Crawford, chairman of the Northern Ireland Sheep Scab Group, said: “Northern Ireland has been lagging behind the rest of the United Kingdom in both research and piloting control strategies for decades.

“We hope this project will act as a catalyst for change and eventually lead to the creation of a bespoke eradication plan for Northern Ireland.

“But to get to that stage, we first have to obtain relevant data, which will give us a clearer picture of what is happening on farms across the country, in terms of prevalence, spread and attitudes towards the disease – as well as what needs to change in terms of communication and education, concerning all parties – in order to defeat sheep scab for good, and that is what we hope this project will achieve.”

Stewart Burgess of the Moredun Research Institute, who is leading the project, said: “I think we can use lessons learned from the pilot Rural Development Programme for England and apply them in a Northern Irish setting.

“Our aim is to get an honest picture of how sheep scab is perceived, and dealt with by farmers and vets, and what needs to be done to change attitudes, and make sure the tools available are being used by all parties to ensure flocks are scab free now and in the future.’’