Researchers target sheep scab

Sheep scab – which annually cost the industry over £200 million – was among a number of diseases singled out for a concerted effort to eradicate them from the UK over the course of the next decade.

With the disease currently endemic in the national flock and affecting 10-15 per cent of farms with about 8,000 outbreaks each year the all-sector Ruminant Health and Welfare (RH&W) group singled out co-ordinated control, mandatory annual screening, flock traceability and vaccination as key objectives required to move towards eradication.

Dr Stewart Burgess of Moredun Research Institute highlighted the fact that the development of a new vaccine would help in the long term - but backed interim goals like notifiable or reportable status to create a traceable, sustainable framework.

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The ELISA blood test for sheep scab had been a game changer, he said. “It can detect scab in the first two weeks of infestation and before clinical signs – a new version is in development and would offer on-farm results in under 20 minutes at a cost of under £5.”

Kate Hovers, vet and consultant at Wales Veterinary Science Centre, added that disease control schemes and health certification for scab helped control the disease while also offering a premium for certified stock.

But she also stressed that current treatments such as organophosphate dips and macrocylic lactone injectibles (such as Dectomax) needed to be both available and effective.

Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) and lameness in dairy cattle were among other ailments to be targeted by the group.

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