Dáil Éireann - Volume 464 - 18 April, 1996

Written Answers. - Sheep Scab Problem.

130. Mr. Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the proposals, if any, he has for dealing with the outbreak of sheep scab which is now a serious problem for some sheep farmers. [7875/96]

132. Mr. H. Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if his attention has been drawn to the concern amongst sheep farmers at the growing level of sheep scab; the actions, if any, he will take to reduce the incidents of sheep scab; the way in which he will monitor the progress of such a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7885/96]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 132 together.

My Department is keeping a close watch on the incidence of sheep scab and more so since the abolition of the countrywide compulsory dipping in 1994. There have been unverified [501] reports of an increase in the incidence of sheep scab. Coupled with this there has been a marked reduction in the sale of dips which itself is an indicator of reduced treatment. In response to this development and following consultation with all interested parties a package of measures was introduced in June 1995 to highlight the need to control and eradicate the disease.

As part of this awareness programme a confidential phoneline — telephone 1-850-245900 — was introduced to enable callers to report suspect sheep scab cases. In addition a video campaign was launched to highlight the economic losses and devastating effects of the disease on sheep. The video set out treatment options through dipping or injectible methods and advises flockowners to practice good animal husbandry to control and eradicate this disease. In addition, livestock mart managers have been asked to assist in combating sheep scab. Furthermore my Department has increased its vigilance at livestock marts, meat plants and farm inspections and follows up with the local authorities any indications of scab that arise.

In furtherance of this programme of awareness and eradication, a public two-day conference was held on 27-28 March 1996 not alone to reflect the many aspects of this disease and treatments for it but to emphasise the need to fully understand the disease; to improve methods of diagnosis; to be aware of the different types of treatments; to be aware of statutory obligations, to notify the local authority of suspect cases; and to practice good animal husbandry.

With experts speaking on different aspects of the disease and its control followed by a question-and-answer session after each guest speaker's talk attendants were afforded an opportunity to advance their own understanding of the disease and its control and eventual eradication.

It is important to note that although the annual autumn compulsory sheep dipping scheme was removed in 1994 [502] the onus rests on individual flockowners to protect their sheep against sheep scab. Sheep scab is by law still a notifiable disease and outbreaks must be dealt with by compulsory treatment of the affected and contiguous flocks until the outbreak is controlled. I shall keep this programme of awareness under constant review.