Scrapie - Advisory Notes for Farmers (PB9446)

Can I do anything to stop my animals contracting scrapie?

The disease is caused by an infectious agent, which appears to be transmitted from a ewe to her lamb, and to other sheep. The way it is transmitted from sheep to sheep is not fully understood, but infected birth fluids, membranes and cleansings (placenta or afterbirth) probably spread the agent around pastures or buildings during lambing. Sheep should not be permitted to eat placenta.

Regular cleaning of buildings used for lambing may reduce the risk of exposure of the sheep to the agent. Timely and complete disposal of cleansings is considered to be particularly important. These methods may help to control the spread of scrapie within a flock, but they are unlikely to be 100% effective.

In some cases scrapie has been successfully controlled by culling the relatives of scrapie cases from the flock/herd. To be successful this requires clear identification of animals and adequate record keeping. You can also breed increased natural resistance into sheep flocks through the use of scrapie genotyping (see section on genotyping). You should also ensure that sheep are purchased from verified sources.

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