THE Farmer Network will be one of the partners in a new project aimed at controlling sheep scab in three areas of England.

A group of scientists led by Dr Stewart Burgess at the Moredun Research Institute, Lesley Stubbings at LSSC Ltd and Professor Richard Wall at Bristol University, with partners across the country including the Penrith-based Farmer Network, have been successful in securing DEFRA funding via the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).

The new project will demonstrate the effectiveness of a community-led approach to improve the control of sheep scab in three areas of England. It will run over two years, offering participating farmers a unique combination of on-farm advice, training and free blood testing using the sheep scab ELISA test developed by Moredun. It will also cover the costs of visits by the farmer’s local veterinary surgeon.

This co-ordinated approach will be used to demonstrate the control of sheep scab in three focus areas of England where scab currently presents a significant problem: The North West; the Midlands and the South West.

Sheep scab, a highly infectious disease caused by the parasitic mite Psoroptes ovis, costs the UK sheep industry an estimated £70-200 million every year and has remained a significant problem for the health, welfare, and productivity of sheep since the 1950s when it was re-introduced via imported sheep.

The project will engage farmers who are willing to work with their neighbours and their vets in testing, sharing results and undertaking the practical elements required to bring sheep scab under control.

Importantly, the work will be co-ordinated by local industry groups already working with sheep farmers in each focus area, including the Farmer Network in the North West.