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Minister fails to make £5 million commitment to battle “contagious and insidious” sheep scab disease

The Member of the Welsh Parliament for Aberconwy – Janet Finch-Saunders MS – has led a short debate on the deeply damaging issue of sheep scab, calling on the Welsh Government to allocate £5 million of unspent Wales RDP funding for disease eradication. It comes at a time of growing concern about the contagious parasitic diseases. In 2010, a study identified 36% of Welsh sheep farms had a sheep scab outbreak in the previous five years. Five years later, scab outbreaks were reported on 15.8% of Welsh farms.

Time in the debate was also provided to contributions from Samuel Kurtz MS, Sam Rowlands MS and James Evans MS. ADAS has estimated the costs of treating a misdiagnosis followed by the payment needed when using the correct treatment once a definitive diagnosis had been obtained. The production losses were found to be in the region of £20 per ewe. For a 500 head flock, the costs of a misdiagnosed and poorly treated outbreak were deemed to be in the region of £10,000. The average flock in Wales is 700, which pushes the estimated production loss to £14,000.

Commenting on her debate, Janet said:

“Sheep scab is a highly contagious and insidious disease which impacts on animal welfare and leads to economic losses. It is one of the most contagious diseases of sheep in Wales, as a single mite can lead to an infection which spreads throughout a flock and to neighbouring flocks. “Having witnessed the impact of this disease at farms in Aberconwy, and on my travels through rural Wales, I am clear about the urgent need to get a grip on the disease in this country. If we fail to take this disease seriously, the present negative welfare and production implications will persist. “Norway, Sweden, and the USA have eradicated sheep scab. In fact, previous UK eradication programmes were successful. Eradication was achieved here in 1952, and the UK remained free of sheep scab until it was reintroduced in 1973. I am confident that Wales can achieve the desired outcome again. “I am extremely disappointed that the Minister has once again not made an explicit promise to follow through on her Government's commitment to allocate £5 million in unspent RDP funds to help eradicate the disease. Once again, and in a damaging trend that undermines trust in Cardiff Bay, the devolved Government is failing to recognise the emotional toll of these issues on our rural communities.”

ENDS

Photo: Janet Finch-Saunders MS

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