|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.
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.