Sheep buyers are being reminded at this autumn’s sales of the hidden threat of sheep scab transmission that arises whenever sheep from different places are mixed. Leaflets produced for the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) group with sponsorship from Pfizer, manufacturer of Dectomax, are being given to farmers buying stock at markets.
A stock of leaflets has been supplied to member markets of the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association (LAA) and Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers Scotland (IAAS) for staff to hand out to farmers as they pay their bills in the market office.
On SCOPS’ behalf, independent sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings has co-ordinated the initiative. "Autumn sheep movements are a major transmission route for sheep scab infestation, although symptoms may not show for several weeks or months," she cautions.
"Farmers adopting a ’buyer beware’ approach to bringing purchased sheep into their flocks could save time, trouble and a lot of money. In addition to scab, other threats include anthelmintic-resistant worms and foot infections such as ovine digital dermatitis."
The leaflets present a three-step plan for farmers introducing new sheep to their flocks:
(1) With new sheep and those returning from tack elsewhere, yard them for 24 to 48 hours while they are treated.
(2) Treat all sheep with an injectable macrocyclic lactone (ML) medication at the dosage rate for sheep scab and, at the same time, a levamisole (yellow) drench.
(3) 24 to 48 hours after treatment, turn out onto pasture that has already carried sheep this year. Keep the treated new arrivals separate from all other sheep on the farm for at least three weeks. Farmers who prefer to use an OP dip against sheep scab should treat with both ML and levamisole drenches at step two, then dip 14 days later while sheep are still quarantined.
The leaflet also cautions against under-dosing and says the most serious cause is underestimating the weight of sheep. It advises farmers to weigh a few of the biggest sheep in a group to determine the correct dose. Guns and injectors should also be checked that there’re giving the correct dose, and the manufacturer’s instructions of all treatments followed exactly.