Tackling Scab - a farmer led approach

Sheep scab causes serious economic and welfare losses and costs the Welsh sheep industry an estimated £5.86m a year between costs of treatment and loss of production.  A key issue regarding tackling scab within and across sheep flocks is the ease of infection from flock to flock, due to the challenges of biosecurity, which is of particular concern in extensive/upland grazing systems, and communally grazed areas. The best long-term solution to scab treatment is to eradicate the disease from Wales and the rest of Britain. The best chance we have of achieving this is if farmers take a collaborative approach to tackling the disease.

In this three-year project a group of farmers within the Talybont, North Ceredigion area will investigate how working together, rather than a single farm effort, can improve the successfulness of scab treatment. Hopefully by using existing scab diagnosis and treatment techniques in a coordinated way across all farms within the Ceulanmaesmawr parish, this will increase the effectiveness of scab treatment.

Project Design

Biosecurity

Farmers in the Ceulanmaesmawr area will look at improving levels of farm biosecurity:

  • Maintain fencing and check for gaps/shared rubbing areas
  • Double fencing where possible with particular emphasis on high risk areas
  • Communicate with neighbours and co-ordinate treatments
  • Select new animals from known sources or health status
  • Treat all incoming stock and quarantine for at least 7 days
  • Clean any shared handling equipment/facilities prior to use

Testing & Diagnosis

  • A sample of each flock will be tested with the ELISA blood test. This blood test provides a greater level of accuracy than the skin scrapes more commonly used.
  • The test can detect scab within 2 weeks of infection, before visible lesions occur. Early and accurate diagnosis will allow farmers to quickly isolate any infected animals from the flock to help stop further spreading.
  • If positive for scab the infected animals will be recorded and a treatment plan between the vet and farmer will be implemented.
  • All neighbouring farms will be notified and will test for scab as soon as is practical.

Treatment

  • Appropriate treatments will be discussed between farmer and their vet with priority given to dipping where possible.
  • An OP dip provides a better level of certainty and when used by qualified contractors the risks to both human health and the environment are reduced.

Follow up visit

  • Within two months of treatment the local vet will carry out a follow up visit to take further blood tests to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment.
  • Further actions will be discussed with the vet.