Wales commits £5m to tackle sheep scab on farms

The Welsh government has confirmed a £5m programme to help eradicate sheep scab on farms in Wales.

The funding is being made available under the Rural Development Programme to deliver an industry-led project to tackle the disease in Wales.

Sheep scab is one of the most contagious disease of sheep in Wales and has been identified as a disease priority by the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group.

See also: How to control and treat sheep scab

The disease is caused by the mite Psoroptes ovis and represents a significant risk to the health, welfare and productivity of sheep flocks. It is more commonly seen in the winter months. 

It costs the UK sheep industry an estimated £8m a year, with 9% of sheep farmers experiencing at least one case a year.

Welsh rural affairs secretary Leslie Griffiths said eradicating sheep scab was a priority for her government and the industry.

The funding announcement follows a proposal to eradicate the disease in Wales, which was submitted to the Cardiff government in September by the Welsh Sheep Scab Industry Group, a cross-party group of stakeholders.

Industry delight

NFU Cymru welcomed the announcement and said it hoped that the Welsh government would ask the group to devise a strategy which included simple measures that “every farmer can easily implement on their farm”.

Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru livestock board chairman, said: “Sheep scab costs the sheep industry, which comprises of 14,000 holdings in Wales, millions of pounds a year and has health and welfare issues for sheep. Therefore it’s been a key stream of work for us as a union.”

The National Sheep Association (NSA) Cymru/Wales said it was “delighted to see Welsh government supporting industry to eradicate this highly contagious disease”.
Further details of the project will be announced in the coming months following discussions with industry representatives.

Sheep scab in numbers

  • 7,000 to 10,000 clinical cases in the UK each year
  • Each case costs £12-18 a ewe
  • The Psoroptes ovis scab mite can survive in the environment for 17 days

Source: AHDB Beef and Lamb