The Premium Sheep and Goat Health Schemes (PSGHS) is run by SRUC and the Society is represented on the PSGHS advisory group. Other breeds are also represented on the Advisory Group including Texel and Charollais. In 2020 the Advisory Group was made aware that a number of changes and amendments were being introduced by DEFRA to the Scrapie Monitoring Scheme and the Scrapie Show and Sales Rules. Most of the amendments were in relation to the running of the Scheme and its impact on members subscribing to it. There were also a number of changes which were in relation to the segregation of animals at shows and sales in Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales). The key points in these new proposed rules were:
- SMS animals must not be kept in the same pen/paddock or allowed nose-to-nose contact with non-SMS animals, and
- The above conditions imposed upon animals attending shows/sales do not apply to sheep for which you can provide a certificate verifying that the sheep has/have the ARR/ARR prion protein genotype
The key area of concern for the Society was how to define ‘nose-to-nose contact’, and once defined, how to ensure the Society satisfied the requirements. We are also aware that there is a misconception that this only applies to export sales. This is not the case.
Why is this being changed?
One of the key concerns in the EU sheep sector is the control of Scrapie. While the UK was part of the EU the movement of sheep between different member states was contained in EU internal movement directives and legislation. Post Brexit, the UK now has third country status and as it is no longer ‘in’, a different set of rules apply. To protect ongoing trade with the EU and demonstrate that Scrapie is not an issue, DEFRA is introducing a range of measures in Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales) including the ones to control the interaction between SMS flocks (or ARR/ARR sheep) and non-monitored flocks at shows and sales. This no ‘nose-to-nose’ contact at shows or sales is one of these measures to demonstrate that GB is taking all the necessary steps to mitigate against the spread of Scrapie within GB. A further complication is that although still an integral part of the UK, Northern Ireland is included in the EU for trading purposes. This means that in certain matters, such as this, they still comply with EU legislation.
Options Considered by the Society
The following options were considered by Council:
- Two ballot sale with voluntary testing in advance for non-SMS entries. The first ballot would be for SMS flocks and ARR/ARR genotyped sheep. The second ballot would be for non-tested and ARR/ARQ sheep.
- Single ballot sale with mandatory testing in advance for all entries including SMS flocks with only ARR/ARR genotyped sheep allowed.
- Single ballot sale with mandatory testing in advance for non-SMS flocks and optional for SMS flocks with only SMS flocks and ARR/ARR genotyped sheep allowed. SMS flocks could have their sheep genotyped on a voluntary basis.
Following considerable discussion, Option 3 was chosen by Council where only entries from SMS flocks and ARR/ARR genotyped sheep are allowed because:
- There was a reluctance to create a ‘two tier’ sale
- SMS flocks were already declared scrapie free by meeting the requirements set out in in the Scrapie Monitoring Scheme, however, the opinion was that the majority of SMS flock entries would get tested voluntarily.
- As the national Suffolk pedigree flock is 94% ARR/ARR a much higher percentage than most other breeds, this step would have minimal impact on stopping members bringing sheep to Society sales.
- If branches opted for export sales, this part of the testing requirements would already be in place.
- It would send a positive message to the industry that Scrapie was not an issue in the National Suffolk Pedigree flock.
As the changes had not been formally announced, the Society confirmed with SRUC that they were going to be introduced for the 2021 season. This confirmation was received before the changes were announced in the information included with the BN mailing.
SRUC is the only authorised testing facility for Scrapie Genotyping in the UK. Other EU labs were not recognised after the 1st January post Brexit, so the Society negotiated a bulk processing agreement with SRUC in order to minimise the financial impact on members. Any samples being collected are required to follow the same steps as the standard testing process. The only exception is that the samples are to be sent to a Society collection point as set out in the bespoke form available from the Society website (see link below). The collection point is located in GB to avoid unnecessary delays, another by product of Brexit, in mailing blood samples to the Society Office in Northern Ireland.
It was also agreed by Council that the genotype should be included in sale catalogues. To achieve this and allow for the test results to be available in time, a deadline of the end of May was required.
Breeders will be notified of the results in advance and hard copy certificates will also be available.
Here are some useful links including the Scrapie Monitoring digital brochure, just scroll down to the ‘Show, Sale, and AI Centre Requirements’ section to read about these changes.
Scrapie Monitoring Scheme