New programme announced to help eradicate Sheep Scab from the iconic national Welsh flock

A new programme developed by the farming industry, in partnership with the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and Coleg Sir gar, and funded by the Welsh Government Rural Investment Schemes, will help eradicate Sheep Scab in farms across the country. Planning to launch in Spring 2023, the All-Wales Sheep Scab Eradication Programme will be a critical step towards reducing the prevalence of the disease seen in Welsh flocks.

Sheep Scab is an intense itching skin disease, caused by a parasitic mite, Psoroptes ovis. Affecting more than two thousand farms and 30 per cent of sheep in Wales each year, Sheep Scab creates ever itching in sheep, as well as wool and weight loss, and in some cases mortality, making it a major welfare concern for sheep keepers throughout the country.

Sheep Scab has also traditionally been regarded as a mark of poor farming practice, which can have wide ranging detrimental effects on the iconic Welsh farming industry.

Working in partnership with Coleg Sir Gar, Gwaredu Bovine Viral Diarrhoea, Menter a busnes, Dwr Cymru, Lantra, Hybu Cig Cymru and the National Sheep Association, the team, including Technical Lead, Dr Neil Paton, Lecturer in Farm Animal Health and Production at the RVC, will invite all farms in Wales suffering with Sheep Scab to take part in this innovative programme.

As part of the programme, farmers will be asked to self-report to the project staff. Following this, the team will take skin scrapes from affected sheep and if positive for Sheep Scab, further bloods will be sampled for antibodies to Psoroptes ovis. All farms that return positive results will also be dipped (a form of insecticide used to eradicate parasites) by contractors authorised as part of the programme.

While the main aim of the programme is to encourage a significant reduction in Sheep Scab cases in Wales, it is also hoped that it will provide evidence as to how groups of farmers can work together to control disease beyond the parameters of their own farms. This will also help improve wider farming practices and ensure healthier animals that have a reduced need for treatment.

John Griffiths, Programme manager of Animal Health and Welfare Wales at Coleg Sir Gar, said:

"We are delighted to have been awarded the funds to deliver the all Wales Gwaredu Sheep Scab programme in partnership with the Royal Veterinary College.

"Evidence of Sheep Scab is frequently confirmed across Wales. It is hoped this consolidated industry wide effort will achieve significant gains in eradicating this disease.

"Working with Dr Neil Paton of the RVC we plan to roll out the Gwaredu Sheep Scab programme in 2023."

Dr Neil Paton, Technical Lead for the All-Wales Sheep Scab Eradication Programme and Lecturer in Farm Animal Health and Production at the Royal Veterinary College, said:

"Sheep Scab causes a severe welfare problem in flocks throughout the UK. Sheep will itch in response to infestation to the exclusion of all else, resulting in wool loss, severe skin lesions, open wounds weight loss, and in some flocks death. By coordinated diagnosis and treatment we hope to reduce the amount of disease seen in the Welsh flock and pave the way towards eradication of the mite."

This Programme is funded by the Welsh Government through the Rural Investment Schemes, delivering Programme for Government commitments to continue supporting farmers to produce food in a sustainable way, whilst taking action to respond to the climate emergency and to help reverse the decline in biodiversity.