Scottish Farmers Urged To Beware Cattle Scab

UK - Vets and scientists from Moredun and SAC are working together to halt the possible spread into Scotland of a cattle skin disease believed to have come to Britain from Europe.
calendar icon 17 June 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Farmers are being urged to be vigilant, to take care when buying in cattle and contact their vets if they suspect they have a problem.

Psoroptic mange is caused by mites that pierce the skin to feed and cause immense irritation. With the disease now established in Wales and South west England, SAC is offering free analysis of suspected cases while Moredun researchers are developing a blood test to uncover hidden infection. Both are seeking the co operation of farmers and vets.

Although there is no direct link, psoroptic mange in cattle is similar to sheep scab. The intense irritation caused by the feeding mites means cattle rub against walls, trees and anything that offers relief. As a result affected animals can have crusting scabs or bleeding along their back, shoulders and tail head. The pain and distress caused has implications for animal health, welfare and productivity.

Since 2007, when the first outbreak was recorded in Wales, a further 22 farms have been affected south of the border. The condition has not been diagnosed in Scottish herds in recent years, but the industry cannot be complacent.

Now, with Scottish Government funding SAC is offering the free examination of skin samples taken by vets from suspected cases. Meanwhile Moredun scientists are adapting their novel blood test that has already proved successful with diagnosing sheep scab. Cattle may be infected without visible signs so a diagnostic blood test for use in cattle would be a valuable management tool.

Dr Alasdair Nisbet of Moredun commented; “Cattle may not show signs immediately after infection, allowing the silent spread of disease across the country if cattle are moved from affected farms. At Moredun we are adapting the diagnostic blood test for sheep scab to detect mange cases in cattle. To determine the sensitivity and specificity of the test, that’s its ability to detect disease and tell us if disease is not present, we need serum samples from confirmed cases of mange in cattle”.

Helen Carty of SAC Veterinary Services added, "Submission of skin samples from suspect cases along with a serum blood sample from the same animal should be sent to the nearest regional SAC Veterinary Services Centre. The serum samples will be forwarded to Moredun”.

“Treatment of ‘scab’ in cattle is problematic. Experience in Wales suggests the mites are resistant to commonly used products and none are licensed for use in milking dairy cows. Farmers should report any suspect cases to their vet who can take samples to see if the mites are present and check the efficacy of treatment. There is more information available from SAC Consulting; Veterinary Services.”

While under the Sheep Scab (Scotland) Order, 2010 farmers must notify the authorities if they suspect they have a case, psoroptic mange is not currently notifiable in cattle. SAC receives funding for disease surveillance from the Scottish Government Veterinary and Advisory Services programme.

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