Animal health regime is put to the test by sheep imports

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.


Add Your Comment

Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.