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Moredun’s Sheep Scab expert to address key Sheep Health event in Co Down

Sheep farmers will have an opportunity to discuss the control of sheep scab in NI and to hear Dr Stew Burgess, who leads the Sheep Scab research group at the Moredun Research Institute in Scotland, speak and answer questions at an upcoming free Sheep Health event in Hilltown, Co Down. Dr Burgess is a renowned expert who has advised on scab control in Scotland, the Western Isles of Lewis and Harris, several parts of England and more recently in Northern Ireland.

Earlier this year, results from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded NI Sheep Scab project revealed that high levels of the disease were being diagnosed through samples from local flocks following farmer-initiated involvement in the project. The level of responses to tests on blood samples from sheep in NI indicated that some flocks could have been infested with sheep scab mites for a prolonged period and suggested that there was significant potential for local and onward spread of the disease, given that a high percentage of sheep in these flocks were likely to have been infested.

The Sheep Health event, to be held in Hilltown Sale Yard, Rathfriland Road, Hilltown, on Monday 20th November, starting at 7.30pm, will focus on how to stamp out scab both at the farm level and through sheep farmers, vets and other stakeholders, including the NI Sheep Scab Group, researchers from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI), working together locally.

Dr Burgess commented, “Given the levels of sheep scab being detected in NI, it’s important that farmers have an opportunity to come together and hear about the outcome of the recent research project, with the target of gaining information that can help them make the best decisions now to help control or prevent sheep scab in their flocks. We know that clinical signs of scab can take several weeks or months to develop. However, animal health and welfare can become compromised at an early stage. This means that early action taken to prevent scab will be invaluable, and I look forward to engaging in a useful discussion at the meeting about possible strategies to tackle the disease.”

Dr Sam Strain, Chief Executive of AHWNI added, “Over 100 sheep farmers actively participated in the recent project, which led to over 100 veterinary visits being carried out by practitioners.  The farmers gained on-farm advice, free blood testing and assistance with treatment. A high level of interest was demonstrated, as was successful collaboration between farmers and other stakeholders. There is a will to tackle endemic diseases in the sheep population, including sheep scab, and the meeting at Hilltown will allow farmers to hear and discuss the latest advice.

“Improving sheep health and welfare through the control of sheep scab will increase animal productivity, address the challenge of antimicrobial resistance and increase environmental sustainability through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Notes for editors:

  1. Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI) aims to benefit livestock producers and processors by providing the coordination required to establish effective disease control programmes as mandated by industry. AHWNI has been responsible for the delivery of the BBSRC funded Northern Ireland Sheep Scab Project.
  2. For more information, please contact AHWNI (email:, tel 028 79639333) or visit the AHWNI website

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