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What British farmers should be thinking about when it comes to biosecurity

Biosecurity is a hot topic for the UK livestock sector and with sheep movements due to spike around autumn breeding sales, Hannah Park rounds up some of the key protocols.

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What British farmers should be thinking about when it comes to biosecurity

One of the biggest disease threats to an established flock is the introduction of new animals, so putting a plan in place to minimise the chance of impacting on flock health status when buying-in stock is crucial.

 

The Sustainable Control of Parasites (SCoPS) group advises quarantine protocol should be applied to all incoming animals, including stock purchased from other flocks and sheep which have been grazing on other farms or on common land.

 

When it comes to attitudes on-farm, farm vet at Synergy Farm Health, Charlotte Moorland, says while there are aspects of biosecurity protocol more farmers have started to take a closer look at, there is still room for improvement.

 

She says: “The differences farm-to-farm in terms of management and disease status does not lend itself to a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes putting a plan in place, but before this is considered, knowing the health status of your own flock is crucial.”

 

SCoPS advises bought-in sheep should be yarded on arrival for 24-48 hours and highlights some of the key disease risks when buying-in stock which could pay dividends in promoting long-term high flock health status.


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WORMING

 

YARDING bought-in sheep on arrival will make sure any worm eggs already in faeces do not escape treatment, as well as preventing these from dropping onto pasture, according to SCoPS.

 

Dosing with one of the two newer wormer groups (4-AD orange and 5-SI purple) is recommended as a quarantine treatment, with vets, suitably qualified persons and pharmacists able to prescribe the group 4 product to farmers. Currently group 5 is only available via a vet.

 

Integrating the two newer groups into on-farm worming strategies will help slow resistance to the older groups, keeping them working for longer, SCoPS says. In the long-term, this means cheaper, effective worm control compared with the prospect of having to rely on the newer groups completely.

 

Incoming

 

As well as being an important option for quarantine treatment of incoming stock in autumn, SCoPS recommends either of the two newer wormers are used as a ‘mid-season’ or ‘break drench’ to remove worms that have survived prolonged exposure to other wormer groups used earlier in the season.

 

Treatment options depend on the risk category of a specific farm, which can be determined using the SCoPS quarantine guide available on its website.

ICEBERG DISEASES

 

ESTABLISHING the disease status of a flock ahead of buying-in stock can prevent high health status sheep from picking up diseases once they arrive on-farm, advises Ms Moorland.

 

When it comes to iceberg diseases, a good place to start, she says, may be to carry out some disease screening with your vet to build up a picture of the disease status of a flock.

 

“It is more likely that the health status will be known when buying-in smaller numbers of animals, such as rams, but for bigger groups, testing a proportion could be considered.

 

“This does not need to be an expensive exercise, and will typically involve looking at a proportion of animals [12 for an average sized flock] which are being prematurely culled.

 

“Having a conversation with the vendor to try and establish what their health status is and consider treatments is also crucial - be mindful that you do not know what you are buying-in resistance-wise,” she says.

SCAB

 

SCOPS advises that sheep scab should be considered when quarantining incoming stock, with diagnosis tools now available to check for the presence of infection which can be carried out in conjunction with a vet.

 

These include skin scrapes, which see mites collected from the skin surface. Although a quick way to obtain a clinical diagnosis, it can be difficult to find mites in the early stages of infection.

 

A blood ELISA test can also be carried out to look for antibodies the sheep produces in response to infestation. As these are produced immediately, infection can be detected more quickly.

 

ABORTION

 

WHEN it comes to abortion, Ms Moorland advises that, if possible, buying from a source of known health status is safest, but do not be afraid to ask probing questions around diseases or whether any surveillance testing is taking place alongside the vaccination status of animals in other situations.

 

She says: “As a practice, we offer single-dose treatments, including four and five group wormers and scab treatments, for those only buying-in irregularly or in small numbers, so it is worth finding out if that is an option in your local area.

 

Demand

 

“If there is demand for this kind information, it will need to be more readily supplied by vendors.”

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