Newsletter December 2021

In recent months the practice has been involved in an exciting new flock health project: ‘For Flock’s Sake Let’s Stop Scab Together’. This project is funded by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of a collaborative and community-led approach to the control of sheep scab in ‘hotspot’ areas of England.

Three ‘hotspot’ areas, where scab is a persistent problem, were chosen for the project: the greater Exmoor area (coordinated by NSA and Exmoor Hill Farming Network (EHFN)); the Midlands (coordinated by ADAS) and the North (coordinated by CFN). In each ‘hotspot’, sheep farms that share common boundaries, or use the same common grazing, have been recruited and organised into ‘clusters’ of neighbouring farms by the coordinators. The objective is to encourage cooperation in the control of scab in ‘clusters’ where infested flocks are identified using a highly sensitive scab blood test developed by scientists at Moredun.

Unlike traditional methods of diagnosing scab (examining clinically affected sheep for mites) the ELISA blood test detects scab antibodies in infested sheep at an early stage before clinical signs appear, and when mite numbers are extremely low i.e. from ~2 weeks after becoming infested. The blood test also detects scab at a late stage, in ‘immune’ sheep in flocks in which scab has been present for a considerable length of time in chronic form when typical signs of scab, and mite numbers, are suppressed. At both early and late stages of infestation traditional diagnostic methods are unreliable; scab remains hidden in some flocks presenting a constant source of (re)infestation for others, resulting in repeated outbreaks of clinical scab in persistently infested ‘hotspot’ areas.

Within the Exmoor area, vet practices including Torch have been working directly with participating farmers in ‘clusters’ of farms, and closely with regional coordinators – in the Exmoor area the coordinators are: Ian May (NSA) and Katherine Williams (EHFN). Close working relationships are

being developed; this community-led approach brings together people with a wide range of expertise to work collaboratively with farmers to bring scab under control. Uniquely, the project, which will run for two years, is offering 100 participating farmers in the Exmoor area a unique combination of on-farm advice, best practice training, and free blood testing using the sheep scab blood test developed by Moredun. Costs are covered for vets to collect two sets of blood samples for testing and to provide a face-to-face advisory visit to discuss treatment, control and biosecurity measures to prevent (re)introduction of sheep scab.

Progress has been good; 49 participating farmers have flocks registered with Torch Farm Vets. Of these flocks, 45 have had their first blood test with 8 (18%) testing positive, 3 (7%) have inconclusive/suspicious test results and are being monitored further, and 34 (75%) flocks have tested negative. Farmers with positive and inconclusive results have been informed and have had their vet advisory visits prioritised. Farmers with negative results will very soon be informed and offered vet advisory visits when the control of scab, and any implications of neighbouring flocks in their ‘clusters’ testing positive for scab, will be discussed.Why is this important? It is estimated that there are around 8000-10,000 outbreaks of scab per year in UK flocks with serious and substantial impacts on health, welfare and production. Whole flock treatments are costly and have become more difficult since populations of scab mites in the UK are now known to be resistant to endectocides (injectable ML treatments – ivermectins, doramectin (Dectomax) and moxidectin (Cydectin)). Repeated outbreaks in persistently infected ‘hotspot’ areas are common.

All involved are learning lessons from this unique and exciting project which it is hoped will provide an example of how working closely together to clear scab can be successfully used in other ‘hotspot’ areas in the country. If you would like more information then please contact Mike Glover or Guto Wynne at Torch Farm Vets, South Molton; Ian May at NSA; or Katherine Williams at EHFN.

Torch Courses

November was a busy month, packed with our Red Tractor approved Mastering Medicines Courses & our Cattle Fertility & AI course. Our vet led, interactive courses received fantastic feedback & we look forward to running

more in the New Year.

2022 will see the return of our Milksure courses so if you need to attend please call your local branch!

Article by Mike Glover VetMB BA CertSHP FRCVS

Well done Emily!

Eighteen progressive people including Torch Farm Vet Emily Linton BVSC Cert AVP (Cattle) MRCVS have been awarded fully funded places to attend the Oxford Farming Conference which runs from 5 – 7 January

The (OFC) is the leading international conference held in the UK for farming and agribusiness. Its charitable remit is to inform, challenge and inspire all those who attend, to resonate and be a force for positive change throughout the industry. The OFC Inspire Programme brings a key audience to the Conference, immerses them in Conference activity, inspires them to progress their own business and relay experiences to others.

Red Tractor update

You will probably be aware that the Red Tractor Standard has just completed the updating cycle. Below are some of the relevant changes relating to Animal Health and Welfare. There are some differences between the dairy and beef/sheep standards but mostly the standards are consistent. Personnel (PL) There have been revisions to ensure everyone is effectively and competently trained initially and then that training is reviewed and refresher training implemented as required. The aim is to ensure safety of all as well as keeping everyone up to date and minimise the risk of bad habits developing. Course such as the Milksure, Mastering Medicines, AI training as well as other regular meetings can all help provide this. Look at the what’s on box or speak to the team.

Housing, Shelter and Handling facilities ( HF) The section on housing environment to ensure stock are in a way that ensures livestock are able to keep clean has been upgraded.

Feed & Water (FW) A system is in place to ensure

newborn calves/lambs receive sufficient, suitable colostrum has been REVISED. This is an area that is worth discussing with us as we can help. For example our Youngstock programmes can really make a difference by helping identify the weakest links and then working with you to reduce the impact.

Animal Health & Welfare (AH) This section has been revised fairly significantly. The farm must have a nominated vet (vet practice) who must visit and see the stock at least annually. In addition all people looking after health and welfare should be demonstrably competent. Whilst the health plan and performance sections has always been an annual review, Red Tractor have indicated that this must be updated and reviewed annually by the nominated vet (practice) rather than extending this as has been common. There have also been changes to the BVD and Johnes (dairy only) management plan requirement for cattle. There is now a requirement to collate dairy calf birth/deaths as well as a greater requirement to collate and review all medicines uses especially antibiotics.

Our Bronze scheme option is very much geared to support this. As part of the scheme you get a free annual review as well as discounts on most medicines and fees. The cost is similar to the cost of a fully health plan review.

Animal Medicines (AM). Again there have been to this section mainly around ensuring those responsible for administering medicines are demonstrably competent along with a requirement to collate all antibiotic use in one place and review critically important antibiotic use. For most people our antibiotic review is sufficient for these purposes. As mentioned before our mastering medicine and milksure courses are both approved courses and most people find them useful. We have changed our annual reviews slightly to take account for the new requirements. Whilst the new requirement might seem a challenge with more information available everyone gains.

Husbandry Procedures (H) section has been revised. Procedures must be carried out by competent persons in accordance with scheme requirements REVISED. The biggest change being disbudding both an anaesthetic and an analgesic (eg Metacam) must be used. Also when castrating by all methods an analgesic must be used (and most methods require an anaesthetic). The exception being ringing which can only be carried out by a competent person up to 1 week of age. All castrations after two month of age must be carried out by a veterinary surgeon.
It is important that Red Tractor is seen to be listening to the consumer and demonstrating what a fantastic product British Farmers produce and maintain the best welfare standards so we can all proudly stand behind British Food. The annual health review is an ideal time to work through what happens on your farm and identify any issues and work to resolve them.

Neil Update

Many of you will know that Neil had rare complications following contracting covid a few weeks ago. He is now home following two periods in hospital. Recovery will take a while but we are very pleased to hear he is beginning to

exercise and is much more comfortable.

Christmas Opening hours

24th – 24 hour emergency service from 1pm 25th -28th – 24 hour emergency service

29th & 30th – normal office opening hours 31st – 24 hour emergency service from 5pm

1st-3rd Jan – 24 hour emergency service

Our lovely Matt alongside his Vet Tech role is now a qualified ATT or Approved TB Tester! Well done Matt, we are all very proud of you!

28th Annual Dairy Show

It was wonderful to see so many familiar and new faces at the 28th Holsworthy Market’s Annual Dairy Show on the 10th November.

Thank you to all who completed the survey and we hope you enjoyed the delicious cake and hot chocolate on offer!

We wish all our clients a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year!