Sheep importers are being urged to continue taking steps to protect Shetland’s high health status.
Around three times as many female sheep are now estimated to be imported compared with a decade ago – increasing the risk of diseases being introduced to the Shetland flock.
The Shetland Animal Health Scheme is funded by the Shetland Islands Council and manages a programme of sheep and cattle testing to ensure Shetland’s high health status.
Testing regimes to identify and quarantine animals on entry have so far prevented the spread of infectious diseases.
The hike in imported sheep has led to an increase in positive tests, however – which has put pressure on the testing programme.
The council is now asking sheep farmers to take steps to help reduce the risk of introducing infectious disease to the Shetland flock:
• Import the minimal number of sheep needed, particularly female sheep. Support local breeders if possible.
• Source the lowest risk animals possible for Caseous lymphadenitis (CLA), MV and EAE.
• Plan ahead for isolation requirements. Import sheep at least 21 days before they are needed for tupping.
• If importing female sheep, plan to lamb them before your main flock and allow time to clean and disinfect lambing areas before your main flock lambs.
• Think about re-testing. Sheep are re-tested through the Shetland scheme for MV and CLA, six months after importation and females for EAE after their first lambing in Shetland. Not all infections can be identified at the pier.
• A private test for CLA is advised six weeks after import or after tupping to enable infected animals to be quickly identified.
• Examine imported sheep regularly for signs of disease and call the vet to investigate. Look out for signs of itchiness, abscesses around the neck and jaw, unexplained weight loss, pneumonia or lameness.