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Livestock news

EU to destroy scrapie stock
Source: Farmers Weekly 09 December 2002

By Jonathan Long

ALL flocks with confirmed cases of scrapie will be forced to have sheep destroyed when EU proposals for a community wide scheme to breed sheep resistant to transmissible spongiform encepalopathies (TSEs) are implemented in the UK.

Documents obtained by Farmers Weekly say that after October 2003, when scrapie is confirmed in a flock, producers in member states will have two options.

Option one allows for the destruction of all sheep in a flock except rams of ARR/ARR genotype, ewes carrying at least one ARR allele and no VRQ allele and sheep with at least one ARR allele which are intended solely for slaughter. It will be compulsory for these flocks to enter a breeding programme to develop a scrapie resistant flock.

The second option allows for the destruction of all sheep in a flock. The document also states that no sheep can be kept on the holding for three years after a confirmed case of scrapie.

In addition, when the affected sheep was not bred on the holding, sheep on the holding of origin may be eradicated as well. If this consideration is pursued common grazing land may be treated as one holding, it adds.

EU proposals come at the same time as DEFRA has begun consultations on a similar voluntary scheme for UK flocks which have had scrapie cases since July 1998, says National Sheep Association commercial manager Chris Lloyd.

The new UK scheme, entitled the Scrapie Flocks Scheme, will allow only rams with the most resistant genotype (ARR/ARR) to be used in scheme member flocks. This scheme will help those flocks which have suffered a case of scrapie since 1998 to avoid another case and it is expected to be introduced in April, says a DEFRA spokesman.

While the requirements for females in scheme flocks will not be as stringent as those for rams, the document says all breeding ewes will have to have at least one ARR allele in their genotype and no VRQ alleles.

"Ewes falling outside of these genotypes, apart from those of ARR/VRQ genotype, will be unable to enter the food chain, but will be compensated at the rate of #90 for adult sheep and #50 for lambs," says the spokesman.

Flockmasters will be eligible to receive either compensation of this level for type three and four rams or be given up to #500 to purchase replacement rams, according to DEFRA proposals.

However, Mr Lloyd believes a discrepancy has occurred because type two rams are ineligible for breeding in the Scrapie Flocks Scheme, but producers will be offered neither compensation nor financial assistance to replace them.

With more than 165 flocks recording a case of scrapie every year, according to DEFRA statistics, it is essential that as many flocks as possible are given the opportunity to breed towards scrapie resistance, it says. But how many flocks will actually enter the scheme remains to be seen.

However, with the EU scheme making genotyping compulsory for flocks experiencing a case after Oct 1, flocks which have already seen scrapie would be well advised to sign up to the Scrapie Flocks Scheme, believes Mr Lloyd.

Despite similarities between the two proposals they will not be combined, says the Defra spokesman.

"Due to the retrospective nature of the UK scheme, flocks will not be incorporated into the EU scheme unless they experience a subsequent case of scrapie after the EU scheme is introduced."

Both EU and UK schemes allow for derogations to be applied where a flock has a limited number of ewes of suitable genotypes.

But the EU proposal says it will only allow a two year derogation, while the Scrapie Flocks Scheme will allow ewes of less resistant genotypes to be retained for up to four years.