21 December 2001

Welsh rush to beat scrapie

By Robert Davies

Wales correspondent

EXTRA funding from the Welsh Assembly has been made available to speed up the countrys scrapie genotyping scheme.

Waless minister of agriculture, Carwyn Jones, top scientists and marketing experts used the Welsh Sheep Strategy projects annual conference to urge producers to tackle scrapie.

About 200 producers heard Mr Jones explain that the Welsh Assembly had set aside £325,000 to genotype and electronically identify 25,000 ewes.

"This issue is of such great concern to the sheep sector that we are using the expertise of the Welsh Sheep Strategys partners to drive eradication forward quicker in Wales than in other parts of the UK."

Gwyn Howells, Meat and Livestock Commissions Wales manager, said the promotion of scrapie genotyping had always been one of the WSSs objectives. Success would bring great benefits to the industry by boosting consumer confidence in lamb at home and on export markets.

This is an opportunity to eradicate the disease, added Janet Roden of the Institute of Rural Studies, Aberystwyth. But this would be a difficult task for some breeds where only 15% of sheep carried two copies of ARR resistant PrP genes, and only 40% had one copy.

"It will be difficult to find ARR/ARR rams, but where they are available progress will be rapid," said Ms Roden.

Some producers could decide to simply remove susceptible rams, others would speed eradication by eliminating both susceptible rams and ewes. The decision to use only rams with one or two copies of ARR resistance could bring dramatic improvement within breeds in which only 15% of sheep currently carried two copies of ARR resistance.

Whether choosing to reduce clinical scrapie by removing the most susceptible VRQ genotypes, eradicate it by removing ARQ genotypes too, or to breed from resistant genotypes, it was important for producers to get involved, she added.

&#8226 Funding for speedy genotyping.

&#8226 Eradication to boost confidence.

&#8226 Producers urged to join in.

Carwyn Jones is keen for Wales to achieve scrapie eradication faster than the rest of the UK.