Crisis means sheep scab undetected?
THERE is a danger that sheep scab may be going undetected as producers and vets remain focused on foot-and-mouth issues.
The main risk period is likely to come this autumn, when sheep are transferred from common grazing to lowland areas for overwintering, according to VLA senior entomologist Peter Bates.
"There have been fewer diagnoses of sheep scab this year. However, this is likely to be because vet resources have concentrated on dealing with F&M and scab has not been high on the list of priorities."
Late or home shearing, due to F&M restrictions, may mean scab has survived for longer this year, he says. "Shearing subdues scab as mites are susceptible to sunshine, heat and dehydration. Where shearing technique is poor, mites are more likely to have survived."
Overstocking, particularly as wool begins to grow, also increases the likelihood of scab spreading, warns Dr Bates. "Mites have no free living stage and can only spread by sheep to sheep contact. This means higher stocking densities favour spread."
Producers should seek vet advice when sheep are seen rubbing excessively, he advises. "Sheep will always rub, but when this is above normal levels get a vet to diagnose it.
"This is preferable to treating without a diagnosis as the problem could turn out to be lice, which are cheaper to treat than scab," he adds. *