NSA welcomes launch of further sheep disease monitoring schemes

13th October 2020

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is welcoming today’s news of the launch of two new sheep disease monitoring schemes by Scotland’s Rural College’s (SRUC) Premium Sheep and Goat Health Scheme (PSGHS).

The new monitoring schemes will sit alongside SRUC’s PSGHS Accreditation Schemes providing a further level of assurance for buyers looking to reduce disease risk. The new schemes will monitor levels of two important infectious sheep diseases: Maedi Visna (MV) and Johne’s disease, with potential for other diseases to be added in the future, diseases often know as ‘Iceberg diseases’ for the hidden risk they often pose for commercial sheep flocks.

NSA plays an active role on the PSGHS Advisory Board and has encouraged the development and launch of the new schemes.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: “NSA very much welcomes the new testing schemes. Their launch comes at a time when sheep farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact Iceberg diseases can have on their flocks.

“These new monitoring schemes can offer a method of increasing productivity through identifying sheep that could cause further losses and reduce the efficiency of the flock, something that all farmers will need to be aiming towards as changes to policy and support schemes place emphasis on high welfare efficient production methods.”

The new monitoring schemes are based on annual testing of three main cohorts for each separately managed flock; Targeted testing of high-risk adult animals, testing of rams and testing a proportion of animals with a lower health status, as these pose the greatest risk of becoming infected with disease.

Testing will be done at any time of year but SRUC ask that members allow six weeks before animals are sold to give plenty of time for arranging sampling, testing, and reporting. The farm’s private veterinary surgeon must take the samples.

Another important part of membership is an annual appraisal of farm biosecurity, working through a biosecurity guidance checklist with the farm vet.  The Health Status Report for a Monitored flock will record the number of years that a flock has been monitored and will be awarded annually.

SRUC Veterinary Services are supported by the PSGHS Advisory Board, consisting of members from the sheep industry, breed societies, veterinary profession, and NSA.