DEFRA to update scrapie disease plans

The government is looking at ways to reduce the impact of outbreaks of classical scrapie on livestock businesses while still preventing the spread of this fatal brain disease.

Yesterday (21 June), DEFRA announced it had entered into a consultation period on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies, which includes BSE and scrapie.

This will look at the compensation received by farmers whose stock develop BSE and, more notably, will consider updating scrapie disease plans.

At the moment if one sheep or goat is identified with scrapie, the remaining flock will have to be gene tested to establish their susceptibility to the disease. Any identified as at risk will have to be culled out of the herd or flock.

The consultation will look at whether, instead of culling susceptible animals, it is better to keep stock under restrictions with regular disease monitoring and testing.

A DEFRA spokesperson said: “This would at least minimise the impact of the disease on farm businesses. In general the number of cases of scrapie is going down because of the controls that are in place. These potential new measures would still prevent spread from occurring, but would allow farm businesses to continue.”

Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, welcomed the review: “There are currently a lot of controls around TSIs which are unnecessary given the low risk they pose to humans, and as such we welcome a consultation.”

The consultation package can be found on the DEFRA website.

The closing date for responses is 13 September 2012.