Maggots, ticks and even sheep scab have been a huge issue for many sheep farmers this year, and while there are several pour-ons and injectable solutions which claim to control these unruly bloodsuckers, getting back to good old fashioned dipping is deemed best for many.

According to freelance sheep dipper, James Gibb, Toftcombs, Biggar, a growing number of flockmasters are now opting to dip their sheep, as he is in constant demand travelling up and down the country.

“There are a lot of alternative methods that can be used to treat individual parasites, but dipping covers everything and keeps your sheep safe,” said James, who added that OP dipping controls sheep scab, blowfly, ticks, keds and lice.

“A dip is as good as a dose! One plunge into Gold Fleece Op dip will address all parasites and the ewes will go on and thrive,” he added.

Prior to dipping, it is important that all sheep are kept as clean and dry as possible with no open wounds to ensure the dip is effective as it can be. Sheep must be immersed for 60 seconds with their head dipped under twice. Ideally you want them dry going into the dipper, explained James.

The scab mite prefers to spend its entire life cycle on the animal, but can survive off-fleece in clumps of wool for up to 17 days.

Dipping gives protection against scab for longer than the 17 days that the mite can survive in the environment, thus allowing for complete elimination in closed flocks.

Most years, James is busy dipping from June right through until February, with peak being September/ October, when many farmers are looking to dip their sheep before tupping to carry the ewes through flushing and over the winter.

It’s just three years since James started up the business and during that time it has flourished.

“I saw a gap in the market for sheep dipping in 2017, so I purchased my own dipper to do some of our own sheep, and a bit of freelance work and it has snowballed ever since.

“I have no set area, because if you get the sheep numbers it pays to travel, so I am always encouraging new business and will never say no to anyone. There is always work out there, and people are regularly on the phone looking for someone to dip their sheep,” he said.

The Scottish Farmer:

After being dipped the gate is opened to allow the sheep into the holding pen Ref:RH020920104

James pointed out that last year he dipped 55,000, and this year is on target to do even more when it is cheaper to bring in a contractor rather than spend money attending courses and getting the correct certifications.

This year he also purchased a new bespoke dipper, similar to the last one but with a slight alteration to make James’ job easier. As a result, he can comfortably dip 1500-2000 head a day.

One side of the dipper can now be used for colouring ewe lambs and gimmers for breeding sales.

And, if the dipper wasn’t enough to keep James busy, he runs a second business – buying and selling secondhand farm machinery.

“The two businesses complement each other, and ensure a steady income all year,” said James.

“I would like to see the dipping business grow further, however, there is also a point at which you can get too big, and first and foremost, you have to be able to keep your customers happy.

“As long as I can do a good job, I hope there will be work out there, so my main concern will always be keeping my customers happy,” concluded James.