Initiative says co-operate to rid flocks of sheep scab

Sheep dipping issues were to the fore at this week’s Sheep Event, Malvern, with the announcement of two initiatives aimed at tackling dipping related problems.

The first, the Sheep Scab Initiative, was introduced to the industry by NSA and aims to encourage farmers to rid their flocks of scab through co-ordinated local plans.

Highlighting the aims of the initiative immediate past chairman of NSA Peter Baber said scab cost sheep farmers on three counts: Prevention, treatment and lost productivity of infected sheep.

The initiative would aim to complete most of its work through peer pressure, with local farmers helping each other.

“There will be some practical difficulties, particularly when animals are on shared grazings.

But farmers with sheep on these areas have to take responsibility for their stock and deal with problems should they arise.”

Practical steps

Moving on to the practical steps which would be needed, Mr Baber told Farmers Weekly the initiative wanted to see a three-tier approach.

“First, there will be a low level approach by either the farmer’s own vet or the State Vet Service.

They will work with the farmer to assess flock and local conditions and devise a strategy to tackle it.

“The next stage, should they not wish to co-operate, will be preventing them trading, as it is an offence under the 1997 Sheep Scab Order to move infected sheep, other than for treatment.”

Last, failing all other attempts to promote treatment of infected sheep, flock owners would be prosecuted.

“However, this is the last resort and we hope farmers will co-operate before we need to take this sort of enforcement measure.”

But Mr Baber admitted that to have any real hope of eradicating the disease, there would probably need to be some enforcement action at some stage.

Meanwhile, the NFU launched its Stop Every Drop campaign to raise awareness among farmers and contractors of the need to ensure pollution is avoided when using available plunge dipping products.

Before considering dipping producers should ensure problems, such as leakage to watercourses, were solved or alternative arrangements, such as using a contractor, made, said NFU livestock adviser Alistair Johnson.

“Before using a dip for the first time in a season, farmers should fill their dip bath with water, mark the level and leave it overnight to check for leaks.”

Next, the area around the bath should be checked for pollution routes to watercourses, he said.

“The dip should be filled with water until it overflows, then the flow should be followed.

If flow can get to a watercourse, then losses must be blocked, diverted or caught.

The same applies to siting mobile dips and all drainage from drip pens must go back to the dip bath.”

Pollution risk

But the risks did not end with sheep leaving the dip bath and care should also be taken during and after dipping to ensure sheep did not pose a pollution risk then either.

“Each sheep should stand in the draining pen for at least 10 minutes, then they should be put in a holding field with a water trough and without watercourses.

Sheep should remain in this holding field until they are dry,” he added.

For more from the Sheep Event see next week’s Livestock section.