Cattle scab cause for concern

CATTLE scab, which was eradicated from the UK almost half a century ago, is again rearing its head, with imports from Europe the likely source of the outbreak in around 30 herds.

There have been confirmed cases in Wales, England and Ireland, although Scotland has so far escaped the disease, which causes significant skin irritation and serious discomfort to infected cattle.

Cattle scab was initially reported in Wales in 2007 and has since been confirmed in more than 20 herds in South Wales, one in North Wales, one in South West England and several in Ireland. But it was the discovery of another recent case in Yorkshire recently, which NFU Scotland president and ormer vet Nigel Miller described as a ‘worrying development’ and a ‘significant move northwards’ for the disease.

He said it underlined the ‘urgent need’ for Scottish cattle keepers to sit down with the Scottish Government, veterinary experts and other animal health stakeholders to work out an action plan to keep cattle scab out of Scottish cattle.

Speaking at AgriScot, Mr Miller said the cluster of cases were a ‘wake-up call’ for the livestock sector and called for Scotland to adopt a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach. He called for the development of a code of practice on cattle scab linked to the risk of importing the disease.

“The reality is that, with the disease being difficult to detect in its early ‘silent’ phase, it may already be in some Scottish herds. If that were found to be the case, then we need Scottish Government intervention to restrict movements from infected herds in order to protect others. “This is the route that has been successfully adopted to tackle sheep scab in Scotland and would be equally appropriate for the cattle disease.”

Dr Mary Vickers, senior beef scientist at Eblex, said psoroptic mange affected all types, breeds and ages of cattle, but products used to treat other types of cattle mange had not always been effective.

She said treatment may need to be adapted following advice from a veterinary surgeon, with more frequent doses than normal for other ectoparasites.

Dr Vickers said the disease is caused by a mite, which increases in numbers and activity during autumn and winter, making signs easier to spot at this time of year. It is typified by intense itching, severe lesions appearing rapidly over the back, shoulders and tail head and has been associated with dramatic reductions in feed intake and performance.

  • SAC and Eblex have advised producers to consult their vet wherever psoroptic mange is suspected. A microscopic examination of skin scrapings can also be arranged free of charge through SAC.

Readers' comments (6)

  • The Peasant
    This apparently imported problem affects England, Wales and Ireland. Scotland remains free. Could there be any connection with the need to import cattle to replace culled TB reactors?

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  • I think you will find Europe has restricted the use of benzyl benzoate Peasant. . Probably another case of European fanaticism taking over from good animal husbandry. . . If it is is back, it will now an essential for the medicine cabinet to nip it in the bud . People best check with their vets though.

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  • The Peasant
    If Europe fails to control this problem CH, that is their problem. I we are importing their problem we should take measures to stop it, and probably (other than an outright ban on imports - against EU rules?) the best measure would be to reduce the demand for imports by getting rid of TB and the ridiculous number of good productive cattle we are slaughtering as reactors. Scotland is TB free and also free of cattle scab. I don't think it is a coincidence.

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  • Of course it's not, I absolutely agree; but remember something Scotland has already suggested/stated they may/will be reducing bTB testing to four years or not at all in some casesi. . What is the religious phrase? "Seek and ye will find". . Or NOT as we know with badgers.

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  • May i just say in a country far away from here around 14 years ago we culled over 5000000 head of buffalo yes good eating beef in the name of TB only to find it was migratory geese that spread the TB from one country to another. There are a lot of Canadian geese that come here it would be interesting to check them for Tb and see the results

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  • It's most unlikely the geese would have had Mycobacterium.bovis, much more likely Mycobacterium.avium from the (MAC).

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