Research carried out by Emily Nixon (SWBio DTP student at the University of Bristol) has developed new insights into how farmers treat their sheep for disease.
Farmers who don’t treat their sheep to avoid infection are often blamed for the national increase in disease. However an economic study, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has found that, in some scenarios, this is the most economically sensible decision to take.
Prior to 1992, farmers throughout the UK were required by law to treat all their sheep to prevent scab, an infectious condition caused by the presence of a tiny parasitic mite. At that time there were only around 40 outbreaks per year. After compulsory treatment was removed, the number of scab outbreaks rose dramatically and there are now around 5,000 – 10,000 outbreaks each year. This costs the UK sheep industry at least £10 million every year.
The failure to reduce scab incidence, despite many industry initiatives, is often blamed on those farmers who are unwilling to use routine preventative treatments.
New research, published in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine by Emily Nixon and colleagues from the School of Biological Sciences, shows that many of these farmers are being blamed unfairly.
Paper: ‘Treatment strategies for sheep scab: an economic model of farmer behaviour’ by E. Nixon, H. Rose Vineer and R. Wall in Preventive Veterinary Medicine.