Caithness and Angus farmers have been offered subsidised testing of tups before sales this autumn. D A McGregor Vets Thurso and Thrums Vet Group Kirriemuir are taking part in a Livestock Health Scotland pilot to subsidise testing for ‘iceberg diseases’ such as MV, Border Disease, CLA, OPA, Johne’s disease, CODD, and scab.

The thinking behind the pilot is that whilst Maedi Visna and Enzootic accreditation schemes are an important component of health security for many flocks it has been difficult to provide similar levels of assurance for other diseases.

The testing will allow farmers to declare a status following pre-sale screening. There will also be follow-up guidance for tackling any diseases which are found through the tests.

Cheviot breeder Joyce Campbell from Armadale farm in Sutherland has been taking part. She said: “I tested my tups before the sale this year. The vets came and bled them and I got back the results, it was all quite simple. I checked for scab, CODD, and border disease and it came back clear.

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“I run a closed flock with only a few tups coming onto the farm which means my sheep are very naive to a lot of diseases. I like to test regularly to check for issues that may be at a subclinical level.

“A few people at the sale last week were asking about my status and I think the sector is becoming more open, which will help us all. We just need to be aware of what is out there, so we can take the right steps.

“For a hefted flock like mine, it can be devastating if you find out too late. But a lot of people are taking precautions with more testing and isolating of sheep. I am running a quarantine programme at home for all new stock.

“When you sell breeding sheep, you are only as good as your last sale. There is nothing like a disgruntled customer so we should try to gather as much information as possible.”