“With the combined efforts of scientists, farmers, vets, and other industry professionals, I am sure that we will one day be able to eradicate sheep scab in Northern Ireland.”
That is what Paul Crawford, chairman of the NI. Sheep Scab Group, told attendees at the launch of a new “ground-breaking” £220,000 project to tackle the disease.
The vet believes that the project, which That’s Farming reported about, is the first step towards achieving that status.’
He hopes the project will act as a catalyst for change and lay the foundations for NI’s first sheep scab eradication programme.
Mr Crawford said:
‘‘Northern Ireland has been lagging behind the rest of the United Kingdom in both research and piloting control strategies for decades.”
“But to get to that stage, we first have to obtain relevant data which will give us a clearer picture of what is happening on farms across the country in terms of prevalence, spread and attitudes towards the disease.”
He said it will also point to what needs to change in communication and education concerning all parties to defeat sheep scab for good.
“I am sure that with the full collaboration of all parties, including farmers and vets, we will one day achieve that sheep scab free status that we all aspire to.”
‘‘Farmers are certainly the driving force behind this initiative. That said, eradicating sheep scab from N.Iwill require an enormous effort from all parties and the collaboration of our colleagues in the south.”
The vet confirmed that there is already a reliable blood test available to test for sheep scab before symptoms appear. Furthermore, he outlined that scientists are also “working hard” to develop a vaccination.
The Moredun Research Institute’s Stewart Burgess, who is a leading expert on sheep scab, will lead the project.
An ‘honest picture’
Speaking at the launch, Dr Burgess said:
‘‘It has been brilliant to see all of Paul’s groundwork come to fruition and culminate in the launch of this exciting project.”
Dr Burgess is of the view that partners can learn lessons from the pilot Rural Development Programme for England and apply them in a Northern Irish setting.
He said the launch was useful in terms of identifying potential barriers and managing expectations for the year ahead.
“Our aim is to get an honest picture of how sheep scab is perceived and dealt with by farmers and vets currently and what needs to be done to change attitudes and make sure the tools available are being used by all parties to ensure flocks are scab free now and in the future,” he concluded.