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Preparing for Sustainable Farming – Sheep Interventions

25 June 2024

Scotland aims to become a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture. By improving general animal health, it will result in better production efficiency and welfare. Preparing for Sustainable Farming (PSF) funding is available to help identify future risks/threats and to provide an opportunity to review current practices with your vet/adviser which can then feed into your flock health plan.

What Funding is Available?

There are nine different interventions which cover cattle and sheep – five are directed towards sheep. A standard cost of £250 will be paid for each intervention (regardless of flock size). Each business is allowed two interventions per year, plus a one-off payment of £250 will be available in the first year of claiming for education and development.

Up to £750 is available in the first year of claiming - if you have made a claim in 2023 then there will be up to £500 available. You can claim the same or different interventions as the previous year and you can also mix and match sheep and cattle options if you have both on your farm.

If doing these interventions, the work must be done before 31st December 2024 and claims must be made by 28th February 2025 via the Rural Payments website.

You will need to upload one expert advisor (EA) form signed by your vet per intervention as supporting documents when submitting your claim. No on–farm inspections will be triggered by using this funding and no carbon audit is required to claim, although it is recommended.

Sheep options include Scab, Iceberg diseases, Lameness, Liver fluke and Roundworms.

Scab - Blood sample taken from 12 sheep per management group or less of flock if smaller in size. The blood is tested for exposure to sheep scab, the sample can test positive just 2 weeks after being exposed to the mite. Sheep can remain positive for many months after being successfully treated.

Iceberg diseases – Testing for Maedi Visna, Johnes, Border Disease, Contagious Lymphadenitis, Lung Scanning for OPA. Discussion with your vet regarding whether your flock has shown any signs of any of these diseases and implement a prevention/control plan e.g. biosecurity measures for new/returning stock. Some sheep don’t show obvious signs of iceberg diseases, meaning they could be spreading it around the flock without you noticing. Testing before treating will allow the best outcome. This option can also be used as an entry level into health schemes.

  • OPA – The only way to diagnose OPA in live sheep would be to scan the sheep’s lungs using transthoracic ultrasound scanning, but a postmortem would mean being able take a sample of the sheep’s lungs and look at it under the microscope which is more effective.
  • Maedi Visna/Johnes/Contagious Lymphadenitis – All of these are wasting diseases in sheep. A blood test can be taken and examined to diagnose sheep with these conditions (around 12 sheep blood samples should be taken per management group, depending on flock size). A faeces sample can also be taken to determine Johnes in a flock or individual.
  • Border Disease – This disease is similar to BVD in cattle and can cause abortion, congenital malformations and immunosuppression (increased disease risk). A blood sample can be taken and examined to assess for exposure.
  • Cull ewe screens – These are a great opportunity to screen for iceberg diseases; a batch of around 4 may be better results-wise as one ewe might not carry the same as others.

Lameness – Veterinary lameness assessment to identify conditions in the flock, with the main causes of lameness being interdigital dermatitis, footrot and contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD). By having a vet/fresh pair of eyes on your flock and system it will help you get a better understanding of why lameness could be an issue and what is causing it.

Liver Fluke– faecal/blood testing can both be carried out to detect whether there are any signs of fluke. Around 10 individuals would need to be tested at random from each management group with around 5g per sheep. The best time for faecal testing for fluke would be from mid-summer onwards.

This table shows the time scale for the liver fluke diagnostic testing (source, SCOPS 2024):

Click here to enlarge

Liverfluke Table (PSF)

Roundworms - A faecal egg count is needed to determine the amount of roundworms present in any living animal. A group of around 15 randomly selected sheep with roughly 3g of faeces per animal is needed to get an accurate result. Samples can be taken at various times of the year with the best time being from around mid-summer through to early autumn when the worm burden is high. Testing the sheep before treatment improves your overall flock performance/resistance to wormers and could help you save money.

Post drench efficiency testing – If treatment is required, then testing again after 7 – 14 days (depending on treatment) will show just how effective the drench has been depending on how reduced the number of eggs/worms are. This also shows if the sheep are resistant to the wormer being used.

Both the liver fluke and sheep roundworm options can be chosen and tested together.

When dosing it is important to make sure that the dosing equipment is calibrated and has been stored correctly as well as making sure the sheep/lambs are getting the right amount for their weights.

In summary using this funding will increase efficiency and production of your flock, which in turn will lower your carbon footprint. Speak to your advisor or vet about the best option(s) for your farm.

Laura MacGregor, SAC Consulting

Further Resources

A ewe and two lambs in a grassy field

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