24 May 2002

ONEINTENSHEEPFAILSSCRAPIETEST

ONE in 10 sheep voluntarily tested as part of DEFRAs National Scrapie Plan (NSP) have been categorised as highly susceptible to the disease and ought not to be used in future breeding programmes.

Figures from the NSPs headquarters in Worcs show 65,000 sheep had been tested as SHEEP UPDATE went to press. And despite a capability to test a further 8-10,000/week during summer this year, DEFRA wants more flocks to enter the voluntary programme.

Despite early delays in getting sheep tested – a problem hindered by the workforce diverted to help with the foot-and-mouth crisis – DEFRA suggests waiting times are now minimal. Most visits are being scheduled between lambing and tupping when shepherds workloads are eased.

The department also claims to have improved the results service that was dogged with teething problems. "Its running much more smoothly, although there can be the odd sample that doesnt give a result. But that can be down to technology as much as anything else," said a spokesman.

DEFRA is looking for co-operation from flock owners to have a larger portion of the national flock tested. "We have no pre-set deadlines, but would remind producers that the scheme is voluntary at present. However, it will become compulsory under the Animal Health Bill in due course," he added. &#42