NFU Calls For Action On Cattle Scab Timebomb

SCOTLAND, UK - National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) will use a leading Scottish agricultural event to call on the Scottish Government and the Scottish livestock industry to tackle the growing threat posed by cattle psoroptic mange – the bovine equivalent of sheep scab.
calendar icon 16 November 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

The disease, which causes significant skin irritation and serious discomfort to infected cattle, was eradicated from the UK almost half a century ago. However, imports from Europe are thought to have been responsible for cattle scab being recently discovered in more than twenty herds in South Wales, one herd in North Wales, one herd in South West England and several herds in Ireland

Speaking at AgriScot, taking place at Ingliston near Edinburgh tomorrow (Wednesday, 16 November), NFUS President Nigel Miller will call for Scotland to adopt a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach.

At farm level, that could involve looking more closely at the risks involved in buying cattle backed up by veterinary surveillance and screening bought-in animals. Where cattle scab is discovered, the Union will call on Scottish Government to intervene and place movement restrictions on infected herds to help protect other cattle.

Speaking ahead of AgriScot, Mr Miller, who is also a qualified vet said: “Cattle psoroptic mange causes serious welfare problems for infected stock and is a disease that we thought we had seen the back of half-a-century ago."

"The cluster of cases in parts of Wales, Ireland and England are a wake-up call to our livestock sector. However, by taking action now we still have the potential to prevent this disease infecting and spreading amongst Scottish cattle."

“In conjunction with other stakeholders, we need to develop a code of practice on cattle scab linked to the risk of importing the disease. A risk assessment regarding cattle scab for any cattle being brought on to Scottish farms may help establish if the animals may benefit from a pre-movement treatment for cattle scab."

“Surveillance and identifying the disease will also be greatly assisted by the blood screen tests for cattle scab being developed at Moredun – which could be useful in screening at risk animals - and the free skin sample testing service, already available through SAC’s vet labs."

“The reality is that, with the disease being difficult to detect in its early ‘silent’ phase, it may already be in some Scottish herds. If that were found to be the case, then we need Scottish Government intervention to restrict movements from infected herds in order to protect others. This is the route that has been successfully adopted to tackle sheep scab in Scotland and would be equally appropriate for the cattle disease.

“Prevention rather than cure must be the right approach. Treatment regimes for cattle scab are costly and difficult, and must involve the whole herd to be effective. Available veterinary products – such as avermectins and cypermethrins – are also prone to developing resistance while other treatment options, such as organophosphates, are not licensed for use here."

“Regardless of what treatment is used, it will require lengthy withdrawal periods from the market for meat and milk and for a dairy farm that could result in a 60-day period when milk may need to be withheld from sale. That would have a huge, financial impact on any affected dairy."

“We need to remind ourselves of the lessons learned from sheep scab – a disease that we thought we had eradicated but, since compulsory dipping was stopped, has once again become endemic in some parts. We have to take the threat from cattle scab equally seriously if we are to avoid introducing a major health and welfare disease to our cattle stocks.”

TheCattleSite News Desk

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