The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) is pleased to respond to the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department consultation on the National Scrapie Plan: Scrapie Flocks Scheme. This response has been compiled by the General Secretary, Professor Andrew Miller and the Research Officer, Dr Marc Rands, with the assistance of a Fellow with extensive experience of agriculture and sheep production.
The specific questions identified by the Inquiry are addressed below:
Historically affected flocks
Taking precautionary action on historically affected holdings rather than just newly affected ones seems a sensible move and should help affected flocks to get organised before the compulsory actions planned by the EU for the end of 2003 come into force.
Windows of opportunity
These application windows seem appropriate although flocks with cases both before and after the launch of the compulsory EU Scheme will be governed by the EU regulations once they are introduced.
Time-scale for phasing out non-ARR/ARR genotyped rams
This will be difficult for some breeds and could lead to the loss of other valuable genetic traits. In exceptional circumstances heterozygous rams with especially desirable breed characteristics or production traits could be used on ARR homozygous females in a controlled breeding programme for a limited period of time.
This could again be difficult and undesirable in some breeds and production systems. For example, many other infections such as enzootic abortion and maedi visna can be introduced into "clean" flocks by imported ewes unless care is taken in the choice of source. Similarly in hill flocks the hefting instinct and naturally acquired immunity to certain infections (especially tick-borne diseases) could be lost. Therefore the suggested four-year timescale is the minimum which could be enforced to allow the phased replacement of susceptible ewes by homebred females.
The figures of £90 for culled susceptible breeding sheep and £50 for culled susceptible lambs are aimed at commercial crossbred sheep and are unlikely to be attractive to pedigree breeders. They would therefore act as disincentives for the latter to join.
Compensation for replacing rams
The compensation payments of up to £500 are again appropriate for commercial flocks and are not going to be attractive for pedigree breeders.
Assistance with genotyping of replacements
This is likely to be most applicable to female replacements where the ratio of two free tests per animal being replaced is appropriate. In future it is likely that the majority of rams offered for sale will be genotyped by the vendor. This is already the case in many breeds where ARR homozygous rams command a premium.
In responding to this consultation the Society would like to draw attention to the following Royal Society of Edinburgh response which is of relevance to this subject: A contingency plan for the possibility of BSE in sheep (January 2002).