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Industry Event Sees Key Opinion Leaders Join Forces To Promote Best Practice For Sheep Scab Control, As Concerns Grow Regarding Resistance To 3ML Wormers

In what is thought to be the first event of its kind, key opinion leaders and representatives from industry bodies, academia, vets, SQPs and veterinary medicine manufacturers joined forces with mobile sheep plunge dippers to discuss the issue of scab in sheep, and to promote best practice for scab control.

The event took place in Haydock and drew attendees from Scotland, England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland, who came together to discuss the issue of ethical and effective scab control. This is an issue of ever-increasing prominence following on from recent reports confirming the detection of resistance of the sheep scab mite to 3ML wormers, which are widely used to treat scab.

It is also estimated that since the elimination of compulsory dipping 26 years ago, there has been a 60-fold increase in sheep scab on UK farms1, making it imperative that farmers and animal health professionals plan appropriately for the control of scab (Source 1: Endemic sheep scab: risk factors and the behaviour of upland sheep flocks: Rose and Wall).

The event saw presentations from three leading voices in the area of sheep ecto-parasite control; Dr Peter Bates: Veterinary Entomologist and sheep scab expert, Lesley Stubbings OBE: Independent sheep consultant/SCOPS and Rebecca Mearns: Senior Veterinary Advisor of Biobest.

Dr Peter Bates refreshed attendees’ knowledge on the life cycle of the sheep scab mite and discussed dipping as an option for control. Peter’s key message was that in the sub-clinical stages of disease, even though sheep are infected, there may be no visible clinical signs. This is why sheep scab can be so easily introduced into the flock when buying animals in, and adequate quarantine procedures are vital. Correct dipping technique is necessary to ensure the success of treatment. Diazinon should be used via plunge dip- never a shower or jetter and animals must be immersed for 60 seconds with their head dipped under twice.

Rebecca Mearns of Biobest took the opportunity to discuss their collaboration with Moredun to make the sheep scab ELISA available to UK farmers, supported by a Bimeda subsidy. This test allows an opportunity to detect sheep scab infection earlier than any other means- often as soon as 2 weeks post-infection and before any clinical signs appear. We must integrate this diagnostic tool into flock health plans, particularly in high risk situations to fulfil our responsibility to use medicines sustainably and ensure that a diagnosis is obtained for itchy sheep to allow targeted treatment.

Lesley Stubbings discussed issues around resistance of gastrointestinal roundworms to MLs and how inappropriate use of these products to treat sheep scab will increase the rate of development of resistance. A recent ‘Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep’ scab workshop was recently coordinated by Lesley following reports of resistance of the sheep scab mite to ML injections. The SCOPS plan of action to deliver responsible sheep scab control strategies was conveyed including utilisation of testing, mobile dipping services, education and the role of markets/abbatoirs.

A key part of the day was a discussion around how the use of contract plunge dippers can make dipping both accessible and affordable for farmers. Animal health company Bimeda hosted the event and their Professional Services Vet, Rachel Mallet, commented, ‘there are a lot of misconceptions about dipping and the barriers to having sheep dipped. In reality, there is no reason preventing sheep farmers from accessing this method of scab and ecto-parasite control.’

She added, ‘For farmers who do not have a licence to dip or dispose of used dip, there are a number of  mobile sheep dippers around the country, who provide a way for farmers to avail of dipping, without having to carry it out themselves. In light of potential increases in the cost of dip disposal permits it is useful to be aware that sheep dipping contractors can even arrange to responsibly dispose of used dip. Any farmer who is having trouble finding a local mobile dipper can contact Bimeda for a list of dippers in their area.’

Rachel added, ‘Dipping gives immediate scab and ecto-parasite control and in fact, dipping is the most broad spectrum method of parasite control for sheep as it offers the only way to control scab, ticks, lice, blowfly and keds with one product.’

Throughout the day, speakers discussed the benefits of dipping sheep for the control of scab and other ecto-parasites and attendees were reminded that;

  • Dipping targets external parasites only
  • Dipping does not give rise to anthelmintic resistance
  • Dipping kills scab mites quickly and helps to reduce the presence of mite antigens present on the skin surface causing inflammation.
  • The scab mite prefers to spend its entire life cycle on the animal, but can survive off-fleece in clumps of wool for up to 17 days. Dipping gives protection against scab for longer than the 17 days that the mite can survive in the environment, thus allowing for complete elimination in closed flocks
  • Dipping offers the only way to control scab, ticks, lice, blowfly and keds with one product.

Bimeda are dedicated to promoting the responsible use of veterinary medicines and all attendees were asked to pledge their commitment to responsible sheep scab control on the day. Commitments included:

“I commit to encourage farmers to consult their private vets for proper diagnosis”

“Talk to farmers about the importance of scab control and educate them with a farmer meeting”

“Encouraging NSA Young Ambassadors to take local leadership”

“My commitment is to raise awareness to our sheep advisors in our farmer meetings and events”

One attendee even pledged to set up their own mobile dipping business to help tackle sheep scab.

For farmers interested in targeted scab control via dipping, in the UK Bimeda offers Goldfleece OP Dip, which is the UK’s number one sheep dip. Goldfleece has a short and convenient 49 day meat withdrawal and offers excellent value to the farmer, with 5L treating over 800 sheep. For more information on how to find your local contract sheep dipper or for more information on Goldfleece, call Bimeda on 01248 725 400.