Welsh sheep farmers with “itchy” sheep are being reminded they have just two months to join a growing list of farms that have benefitted from a free diagnosis skin-scrape test.

Animal health experts have been pleased with the response seen from flockmasters to the Welsh government-funded scheme.

About the test

  • Free test is a skin-scrape test which usually costs £23.40
  • Undertaken at Animal and Plant Health Agency’s Carmarthen Veterinary Investigation Centre
  • Test involves microscopic analysis and boiling to reveal parasites
  • A commercial blood test for subclinical (early cases) is available from veterinary diagnostic business Biobest

The offer ends on 31 March and is being championed by Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep and Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales).

Sheep farmers should use the service if they have itchy sheep and cannot tell whether they have scab, lice or both, explains Sian Mitchell of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

See also: Collaborative approach crucial to eradicate sheep scab

“We are recommending farmers work with their vets,” Dr Mitchell told Farmers Weekly. “If you don’t get a good sample you risk not getting a good result.”

She said farmers could take a small number of sheep to vets for sampling to save a call-out charge.

“Encouraging numbers have been seen since the free test was offered back in mid-December.”

Dr Mitchell stressed without a proper diagnosis there was a danger of wasting drugs and medicines but plunge-dipping in organophosphates (OP) would address both scab and lice.

She said: “Pour-ons aren’t licensed for scab and injectables wont do lice but OP dipping does both. Importantly, whatever product is used it needs to be used properly.” 

Course of action

  • Is it scab? Then follow up with injectable endectocides (group 3 Macrocylic lactones) or plunge dip in organophosphate
  • Is it lice? Injectables do not work. Instead farms can use pour-ons or dip in organophosphate