Farmers warned of disease risks

Hundreds of thousands of breeding and store sheep will move around the UK this autumn, taking with them a number of serious threats to the health and future profitability of the flocks they join.

Yet most sheep farmers will do little if anything to minimise the risks and many could pay a heavy price.

Peter Baber, sheep breeder and chairman of SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep), said: “It doesn’t matter that they look well, they were a top priced pen or even from a known source – they still carry the potential to wreak havoc. There is a long list of potential threats, including sheep scab, lice, resistant roundworms and liver fluke, not to mention CODD, footrot and orf.

“Most of these you cannot see, so my policy is never to take any chances. I always isolate all in-coming sheep and implement the full quarantine recommendations.”

Charles Sercombe, NFU representative on SCOPS and also a sheep farmer, acknowledged that implementing an effective quarantine policy takes time and costs money. “But this is nothing compared to the cost of importing one or more of these problems,” he said. “Sheep scab can take up to six months to show its hand, by which time the majority of the breeding ewes in a flock will be affected, along with young lambs – not a pleasant prospect, very difficult and expensive to deal with and devastating for performance.”

SCOPS says there are three elements involved in effective quarantine:

Isolate in-coming stock. Yard for the first 24-48 hours and then keep them isolated from the resident flock for as long as possible, three weeks being the absolute minimum, so that there is time to watch for CODD, orf etc. to develop before mixing.

Treat the sheep against the unseen threats from parasites (see below) while they are yarded. Liver fluke may also need to be considered (see www.scops.org.uk for more information).

Maintain isolation but make sure they are turned out to an area that has carried sheep this season after treatments (without snail habits if in between fluke treatments) for the remainder of their quarantine.

Quarantine treatment: drench with a wormer from either the 4-AD or 5-SI groups and inject with moxidectin 1%

4-AD is monepantel (Zolvix™); 5-SI is derquantel + abamectin (Startect™).

If sheep have, or will be given Footvax, product contraindiction requires that the moxidectin 1% is replaced. Suitable products are either 2% moxidectin or doramectin or plunge dipping in an OP. If the dipping + 4-AD option is used then a moxidectin drench should also be given.

In the case of short-keep store lambs, withdrawal periods can be an issue and the only option in terms of sheep scab may be to ensure incoming lambs are kept away from the rest of the flock, including avoiding contact with vehicles, equipment etc.

Visit www.scops.org.uk for more information on all aspects of sustainable parasite control in sheep.