Industry representatives will have to lobby hard if they are to persuade the government to continue funding the National Scrapie Plan Ram Genotyping Scheme, event visitors were told.

NSP vet adviser, Mike Dawson, said officials had been advised that the disease posed no significant health risk, either to the public or to the national sheep flock.

The Scheme would carry on until March 2008, he said. After that date it would either close or the industry would have to contribute towards its cost.

“A consultation to discuss the future of the scheme will probably be launched in July or August this year. But it will be part of an overall debate on disease responsibility and cost sharing.

“Lobby groups will need to put forward a good case for funding to be granted because scrapie is now perceived as an animal health issue, so the sheep industry would be the main beneficiary,” said Mr Dawson.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly, NSA chief executive, Peter Morris, said the scheme’s future was likely to depend on individual breeds’ feeelings on how well their breed was faring under the NSP.

“Breeds where scrapie has historically been a problem will probably be keen to see the NSP continue in some form, others may be less so. What we are hoping for is a scheme which will allow the blood sample taken to be used for a number of other tests to make blood sampling better value for money.”

But Suffolk breeder Hans Porksen cautioned against a scheme which resulted in breeders taking blood samples themselves. “If that were the case there would need to be some form of validation in place to ensure identities weren’t switched,” he warned.