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.