17 May 1996


INTERFERING with sheep welfare risks serious economic loss, delegates were warned at an Irish sheep scab conference this spring.

Paddy DArcy, from Co Kerrys county and city managers association, said the disease was causing widespread damage to an industry which received a total £12.1m in subsidies last year.

To safeguard its financial future he acknowledged his local authoritys commitment to any future control measures.

"There were 48 scab outbreaks reported in Co Kerry during 1992. Compare that with only seven notifications in 1995 and it becomes obvious the loss in dipping legislation has removed an effective system of monitoring disease outbreaks," he said. "The fact so few outbreaks are now recorded reflects they are on the increase. In fact the Department of Agricul-ture has calculated 70% of outbreaks must be going unreported."

Mr DArcys warning was echoed by Gerry Buckley from Co Corks local authority veterinary officers association, where the pattern of reporting is similar (see table).

"It becomes obvious the loss of dipping inspectors coincided with a sharp drop in the number of reported outbreaks after deregulation," said Mr Buckley.

"Most of the current crop of inspectors would be reluctant to report outbreaks, because they are employed to dip sheep in a private capacity. But they do state there has been a vast increase in outbreaks in their areas following deregulation," he said.

Before 1993 50% of sheep in West Meath and Cork were dipped using mobile units which were generally operated by an inspector. Currently 10% of outbreaks are reported by farmers needing to use county council-owned dips to clear up the disease. A Cork-based inspector has reported no demand for dipping facilities since compulsory dipping ceased. The drop in dip sales confirms this.

Mr Buckley is aware that many flock owners are treating outbreaks themselves and is concerned that the disease is being suppressed by unsuccessful management techniques.

"For example, when using an injection many producers are still only injecting once, rather than following up with a second seven to 10 days later. This and underdosing can encourage resistance. But he said injectables had a considerable role to play, especially for ewes with lambs at foot and for those producers who were reluctant to plunge-dip their flock.

Delegates suggested these schemes to help eradicate scab:

lFree dip if outbreak notified.

lDisqualification from EU subsidy entitlement if outbreak is not notified.

lIntroduce compulsory summer dipping, which would also help to control fly strike.

lTraining for young farmers or new entrants who have never experienced compulsory dipping.

lReintroduction of grant for installing dips. &#42

Sources reporting scab outbreaks between 1971 and 1993

&#8226 46% by local authority

dipping inspectors.

&#8226 24% local authority

market inspectors.

&#8226 13% local authority vets.

&#8226 8% practising vets.

&#8226 9% flock owners.

Scab outbreaks cause serious economic loss to the sheep industry as well as undermining welfare standards both in Ireland and the UK.