6 September 2002

Thumbs up for first year of scrapie plan

ALTHOUGH it will take at least 10 years to eradicate scrapie from the national sheep flock, the first year of the National Scrapie Plan in Great Britain has seen a good response from producers.

David Gray, who works at the NSP policy branch in London, told journalists at the Suffolk Sheep Society press conference that more than 174,000 rams had been genotyped since the scheme was launched last June.

"It has been quite a busy year," he said, listing 10,477 expressions of interest, 6459 applications, 4461 farm visits completed and 174,846 sheep sampled.

Analysis of results from across the UK showed that 31% of all rams tested had the ARR/ARR genotype, making them most resistant to scrapie. A further 40% fell into the second category, with a single ARR matched with anything other than VRQ – the most susceptible genotype.

The type three sheep numbered some 23% of the total. These are ARQ, ARH or AHQ and the intention is to restrict sales of such rams after Dec 31, 2004, with a breeding restriction introduced after Dec 31, 2007.

Only 3% of rams tested were deemed highly susceptible, with slaughter/castration notices served. The remaining 3% classified ARR/VRQ which, although deemed highly susceptible, can be allowed to continue breeding in exceptional circumstances.

Suffolk Sheep Society president Robyn Hulme said that, according to NSP figures, 95% of Suffolks are scrapie resistant. "Many members have been privately scrapie genotyping for the past six years." &#42

Only 6% of rams tested were highly susceptible to scrapie, says David Gray.