Shearers have reported an increasing prevalence of sheep scab with some describing it as “rampant all over the country”.
Sheep scab is an intense allergic reaction to Psoroptes ovis mites which live on the animal’s skin surface. It can cause intense irritation and the breakdown of the animal’s skin, leading to poor thrive in some infected flocks.
Farmer and shearer George Graham who runs sheep outside Gorey, Co Wexford, said that the prevalence of scab has become so bad that “in many places we go, we have to disinfect the whole trailer, everything”.
“It’s so bad, they’d be biting and eating you as soon as you get into the pen. It’s on everything. It’s going to be a disaster if something is not done on it immediately,” he said.
Graham called for there to be compulsory winter dipping, and suggested that this should have been part of a sheep welfare scheme.
“It’s a major problem for farmers buying in hoggets,” he said, describing a flock he sheared where the farmer had bought 20 hogget ewes to boost numbers, only for his whole flock to then be infected.
Shearer and farmer David Harney said the condition is becoming prevalent in many flocks.
“It’s going to cause serious issues over the next few years.
“If farmers don’t push harder to have it under control, it’s going to cause issues for buyers,” he said.