Help offered to farmers to tackle sheep scab

Sheep farmers in Wales are being offered a new free sheep scab testing service, supported by Welsh Government.

Sheep scab is an acute skin condition caused by a mite. Infestations can be debilitating for sheep, potentially causing secondary health problems, and if not properly treated can cause economic losses for affected farms.

Industry organisation SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep) and Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) are encouraging farmers to take advantage of free testing, which is being offered until 31st March.

“The most effective way to treat sheep scab is undoubtedly through testing and diagnosis of suspected cases,” said HCC Industry Development Executive James Ruggeri. “It’s often very difficult to diagnose scab with the naked eye.”

“Treating without testing has two drawbacks – firstly of course farmers may be spending on treatments that are unnecessary, but also using endectocides too liberally may increase the risk of resistance developing in future,” explained James.

He added; “The free testing service is another tool in the farmer’s armoury to combat this condition, along with reviewing quarantine arrangements if scab came into the flock from bought-in sheep, and working with neighbours with adjacent fields to co-ordinate diagnosis and treatment.”

Testing is being done at the specialist parasitology department at APHA Carmarthen Veterinary Investigation Centre (VIC) – but samples should be sent via vets, accompanied by full clinical history. For further information, contact Carmarthen VIC at carmarthen@apha.gsi.gov.uk or 01267 235244.