Welsh farmers urged to take up free sheep scab tests

Sheep farmers in Wales have been told to take advantage of the free examination service
Sheep farmers in Wales have been told to take advantage of the free examination service

Welsh farmers have been urged to make use of a new free sheep scab testing service as NFU Cymru repeats its call for eradication programme funds.

The union has encouraged sheep producers to use the service while also urging that funding for a sheep scab eradication programme be brought forward.

The news comes after Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths confirmed at yesterday's NFU Cymru Conference that funds previously earmarked for the programme had been reprioritised due to Covid-19.

Ms Griffiths did, however, acknowledge that sheep scab remained a serious threat to the industry and pledged to secure funding for the project.

NFU Cymru endorsed her call for farmers to take advantage of the free examination of skin scrape samples from sheep showing suspected clinical signs of sheep scab.

The scheme is operated by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and funded by the Welsh government, running until 31 March 2021.

The initiative aids accurate diagnosis, which is a prerequisite for appropriate treatment and successful control of sheep scab.

It will also encourage sheep producers to work with their veterinary surgeon to protect their flocks from sheep scab.

NFU Cymru Livestock Chairman Wyn Evans said sheep scab was a 'dreadful' disease with serious welfare and production implications.

"It is a disease that we really need to get on top in this country and I would encourage farmers across Wales to contact their vets and make use of this testing opportunity," he added.

“I was heartened that whilst the minister said that she has had to delay the £5m funding because of reprioritisation of the budget due to Covid-19, she gave an assurance that the scheme is at the top of her priorities."

The free sheep scab testing service will see testing undertaken at APHA Carmarthen VIC, which is also the centre of expertise for disease surveillance of extensively managed livestock.

Samples will be received via the farmer’s veterinary surgeon, and should be posted direct to Carmarthen VIC. Submissions must be accompanied by full clinical history to qualify for free testing.