VET’S DIARY: Days are numbered for sheep scab on our farms

The world-renowned Moredun Research Institute was established by a group of forward-thinking farmers in 1920, writes John MacFarlane.

The nationally-renowned (or should that be infamous!) Alnorthumbria Vets can trace its roots as far back as 1898.

Sheep scab has been a scourge on flocks around the globe for centuries.

But for any mites holed up on any of 30 farms west of Rothbury, their days are numbered.

Since the end of January, the formidable combined resources of Moredun and Alnorthumbria have been brought to bear with a programme of blood testing to flush out any residual pockets of infestation.

The Moredun team have developed a blood test which detects the presence of the psoroptes mite, even if it’s only present in small numbers.

On hearing of this new advance at one of our Alnorthumbria Farmer Nights, we recognised its potential and set about hunting for some funding to establish a monitoring programme on our farms.

Our colleagues at XLVets Training Services finally convinced Defra of the value of the project.

So began the frenzied gathering of samples, with our vet students acquiring valuable lessons in the location of the ovine jugular vein in the process!

The new blood sample is enormously valuable for a number of reasons;

It identifies the presence of the disease even in its earliest stages.

It finds farms where there is subclinical sheep scab.

It confirms suspicions where skin scrapes and wool plucks fail to find mites.

It provides confidence that there is no need to use preventative sheep scab treatments ‘just in case’.

Results have exposed one or two previously unknown psoroptes hideouts. This has been especially interesting as none of the farms tested were under any kind of suspicion at all.

Tonight, we’ll be getting our group of farmers together to plot the final demise of sheep scab on their farms.

For thos of you who have been involved, it’s at 7.30pm in Hepple Village Hall.