NI farmers pick sheep scab expert’s brain

NI farmers pick sheep scab expert’s brain

NI sheep farmers have discussed the control of sheep scab here with Dr Stew Burgess, who leads the Sheep Scab research group at the Moredun Research Institute in Scotland.

Dr Burgess, a renowned expert who has advised on scab control in Scotland, the Western Isles of Lewis and Harris, several parts of England and more recently in Northern Ireland was a special gest at the free Sheep Health event in Hilltown, Co Down on November 20.

Earlier this year, results from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded NI Sheep Scab project revealed that high levels of the disease were being diagnosed through samples from local flocks following farmer-initiated involvement in the project.

The level of responses to tests on blood samples from sheep in NI indicated that some flocks could have been infested with sheep scab mites for a prolonged period and suggested that there was significant potential for local and onward spread of the disease, given that a high percentage of sheep in these flocks were likely to have been infested.

The Sheep Health event looked at how to stamp out scab both at the farm level and through sheep farmers, vets and other stakeholders, including the NI Sheep Scab Group, researchers from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI), working together locally.

Dr Burgess commented, “Given the levels of sheep scab being detected in NI, it’s important that farmers have an opportunity to come together and hear about the outcome of the recent research project, with the target of gaining information that can help them make the best decisions now to help control or prevent sheep scab in their flocks.” Dr Sam Strain, Chief Executive of AHWNI added, “There is a will to tackle endemic diseases in the sheep population, including sheep scab, and the meeting at Hilltown will allow farmers to hear and discuss the latest advice.

“Improving sheep health and welfare through the control of sheep scab will increase animal productivity, address the challenge of antimicrobial resistance and increase environmental sustainability through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”