23 August 2002

Do not wait to see scab before you treat for it

By Jonathan Long

SHEEP scab and lice incidence is on the rise and producers should treat flocks now rather than leave it until they see a problem, suggests independent vet consultant Tony Andrews.

Last years foot-and-mouth regulations meant that many vets visited farms they hadnt been to for quite some time and were surprised at the high levels of scab present.

"Scab, currently dormant in flocks, will become active again once the weather becomes cooler and damper. While many flockmasters may think they dont have a problem, it is probably there unseen," says Dr Andrews.

Scab often lies dormant in the skin folds around the ears and vulva. But producers should remember that this is a flock health problem, rather than an individual animal problem, scab is easily spread from sheep to sheep and can quickly infect a whole flock.

"Dipping is one of the few ways to control both scab and lice and now is the ideal time to dip. By the end of August sheep should have long enough wool to take on enough dip for the treatment to be effective, but not so much wool that excessive amounts of product are used," advises Dr Andrews.

Both organophosphate (OP) and non-OP dips are licensed for controlling scab and lice and Dr Andrews believes when all the right precautions are followed there is no reason for producers to avoid using OP products.

"OP dips are safer in terms of the environment and there is less likely to be a problem with resistance being developed to OP products than non-OP ones. But producers should be happy with the product they are using and when they lack confidence with OPs other products can be used."

Injectable products are another option, and while this is likely to be more expensive than dipping, it will also control worms, he adds. &#42

Both OP and non-OP dips provide cost-effective methods of controlling scab and lice.

&#8226 Surprisingly high incidence.

&#8226 Dipping cost-effective.

&#8226 Product confidence essential.