Sheep farmers fail to report scrapie

19 April 2000

Sheep farmers fail to report scrapie

By FWi staff

MANY farmers are failing to report suspected cases of scrapie in sheep or are confusing the disease with scab, according to a survey by government vets.

The survey indicates that 15% of flock owners thought they had seen a case of scrapie on their farm, with close to 3% seeing a case within a one-year period.

The reports author, Linda Hoinville from the Veterinary Laboratory Agency, suggests that as few as 13% of farmers are reporting suspected cases of scrapie.

Replies from over 7000 questionnaires sent out in 1998 show a degree of confusion about the disease, which may indicate mis-diagnosis on farms.

The report says 15% of farmers who responded to the questionnaire said they would treat scrapie by dipping or injecting animals.

This implies confusion between scrapie and other sheep diseases, such as sheep scab, and indicates a need to educate flockmasters about disease control.

As well as these observations, Dr Hoinville says there is more chance of scrapie in purebred flocks rather than in commercially reared animals.

The reasons for this could be widespread. Purebred sheep may be more susceptible to scrapie or their owners may be better able to identify the disease.

The highest proportion of affected flocks were in Yorkshire, Humberside and Shetland. Producers in these regions are involved in scrapie research programmes.

The findings are reported in the 15 April edition of the Veterinary Record.

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