SHEEP FARMERS are to benefit from two new monitoring schemes designed to reduce the risk of disease in sheep.

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has launched the monitoring schemes for maedi visna (MV) and Johne's disease, with potential for other diseases to be added at a later date,

The scheme will sit alongside SUC's Premium Sheep and Goat Health Schemes (PSGHS) accreditation – providing a level of assurance for buyers looking to reduce disease risk.

The monitoring schemes are based on annual testing of three main groups for each separately managed flock: targeted testing of high-risk adult animals - either 12 or 20 depending on the size of flock; testing of rams and

testing a proportion of added animals where they have lower health status – as these pose the greatest risk in introducing disease.

Testing can be done at any time of year but SRUC asks members to allow six weeks before animals are sold to give plenty of time for arranging sampling, testing, and reporting. The farm’s private veterinary surgeon must take the samples.

Another important part of membership is an annual appraisal of farm biosecurity, working through a biosecurity guidance checklist with the farm vet. The Health Status Report for a monitored flock will be awarded annually and will record the number of years that a flock has been monitored.

SRUC’s Dave Wilson, PSGHS Veterinary Manager, said: “We hope that this new scheme will appeal particularly to commercial producers of female breeding stock who want to reassure buyers that they take these diseases seriously, and are working hard to reduce the risk of spreading disease.”

Chief Executive of the National Sheep Association, Phil Stocker, added: “It is very timely given the growing interest in iceberg diseases and is a great opportunity for commercial sheep farmers to get involved as a method of reducing losses and inefficiencies.”

Carolyn Gill, who keeps a flock of Shetland Sheep in Dorset with her husband David, is the first member of the new scheme. She said: “We are very proud and pleased that our Shetland flock is the first member in the UK of SRUC’s monitoring scheme. We wanted to have recognised health monitoring at a level appropriate for our flock, and the new scheme is a perfect solution by giving us greater confidence in – and awareness of – our sheep’s health.”

In instances where disease is found, the farmer can take a proactive approach to manage the disease with their vet, benefitting from the discounted test prices available to members.

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