9 August 2002

Infection cost far too high

INFECTIOUS disease costs the sheep industry £236m/year – 17% of its output – according to Colin Macaldowie of the Edinburgh-based Moredun Research Institute.

Speaking to producers attending Sheep 2002, Dr Macaldowie said more could be done to lessen the financial impact of disease on the national flock. "It amounts to £1000/year for every sheep producer in the UK, a loss they can ill afford."

One of commonest sources of disease was bought-in livestock, said Dr Macaldowie. "Producers spend more time checking out a second-hand car than livestock. Far too little time is spent considering the health status of bought-in sheep and flockmasters rarely ask for accreditation documents. There is also too little premium paid for accredited stock."

However, health schemes were being taken more seriously, particularly in the north of Scotland, said Dr Macaldowie. "Producers are forming groups, such as Highlands and Islands Sheep Health, which provide certification sheep are free from certain diseases."

Quarantining bought-in stock is also a vital weapon in producers armoury in the fight against disease, added Dr Macaldowie. "Not all diseases are visible on sheep when you buy them. So isolate for at least three weeks." &#42

before mixing with other sheep on the farm. This allows time for diseases to show.

"Also, drench against resistant worms and fluke, treat for scab, lice, flies and ticks and vaccinate against clostridial diseases, pasturella and abortion, unless sheep are accredited."