News that examination of skin scrape samples from sheep showing suspect clinical signs of sheep scab is being offered free of charge in Wales, by the APHA and funded by the Welsh government, between November 2, 2020, and March 31, 2021, has been cautiously welcomed by the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW).

The scheme will aid accurate diagnosis, which is a prerequisite for appropriate treatment and successful control of sheep scab, which is a priority of the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework.

Furthermore, the scheme will also encourage sheep farmers to work with their veterinary surgeon to protect their flocks from sheep scab as well as accurate diagnosis for controlling the disease if it occurs.

FUW deputy president Ian Rickman said:

It is extremely disappointing that the industry-endorsed programme for the eradication of sheep scab, which was set to receive £5.1 million from the Rural Development Programme last year, has been put on ice.

"We have raised this concern with Minister Lesley Griffiths recently and made it clear that whilst this new approach addresses a small part of the issue - the testing element - it needs to be complemented with contiguous testing and co-ordinated treatment where the disease is confirmed on a farm as was proposed by the industry-led Sheep Scab Eradication Group."

Previous attempts

Rickman continued:

"Previous attempts to eradicate this disease have had limited success and this is largely due to treatment regimes which have attempted to control this disease on a farm-by-farm basis.

It therefore remains to be seen if this approach will have the desired effect, however, we hope that the industry takes advantage of the initiative.

Testing will be undertaken at APHA Carmarthen VIC, which is also the centre of expertise for disease surveillance of extensively managed livestock.

Samples will be received in the usual way, via the farmer’s veterinary surgeon and should be posted direct to Carmarthen VIC. They must be accompanied by a full clinical history to qualify for free testing.