Louping ill vaccine shortage serious blow to sheep sector

NFU Scotland has called on politicians to safeguard hill farmers and crofters.

Farmers who rely on the louping ill vaccine to protect stock against infection by ticks have been warned of a nationwide shortage and no guarantee that production will restart any time soon.

The news comes as a serious blow to producers when the only alternative to vaccination is to adopt a tick control plan on individual farms.

Mara Rocchi, of the Moredun Research Institute (MRI), which originally developed the vaccine in the 1930s, said the institute had been told that no more doses would be available this year, although the current manufacturer is looking at other ways of getting it produced.

Louping ill is a viral inflammation of the brain and affected sheep suffer from a lack of appetite and act strangely by leaping (louping) around and throwing their head over their shoulder.

Ms Rocchi said farmers should liaise with vets to develop a tick control plan. A document produced by the Moredun and other health organisations includes advice on treatments for tick control, biosecurity tips and wildlife and habitat management.

Moredun chairman Ian Duncan Miller said the loss of the vaccine was a big concern for the industry.

He said: “If you’re turning sheep out in a louping ill area you need the vaccine for the young stock. They need a kickstart, it’s very important.”

Best practice advice can be found at www.moredun.org.uk/research/diseases/ticks/ticks-tickborne-diseases