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SRUC facing criticism at suspension of MV testing

Health scheme members will not have their flock MV tested during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Health scheme members will not have their flock MV tested during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is suspending all Maedi Visna (MV) accreditation scheme testing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Testing for the disease, which causes pneumonia and wasting, is included in the Premium Sheep and Goat Health Schemes (PSGHS) run by SRUC.

However, any scheme members whose flock is due a test during the Covid-19 outbreak will not be tested and their MV-free status will be suspended one month after the renewal date and only reinstated once testing is done.

The move was criticised by the Beltex and Texel breed societies.

Beltex Sheep Society chairman Jim Kennedy, who runs the Lyonpark flock in Maybole, Ayrshire, said: “Considering there are currently no farm assurance inspections or inspections from the department, and vets are being asked not to carry out routine tests, I think it is ridiculous for SRUC to even suggest a suspension and they need to take a look at themselves.

“Until such time as there has been a movement of MV-accredited sheep from one flock to another, there should be no need to re-test in the meantime.

“It just seems SRUC wants to put obstacles in front of us rather than try to help us during these uncertain times, and they need to be brought to task over it.”

Texel Sheep Society chief executive, John Yates, said suspension of a flocks’ MV status after a one-month grace period was a harsh rule in a situation which was not of the flock owner’s making.

He added: “The society wrote to SRUC last week to query the change and to suggest a three-month extension to a flock’s status would be more appropriate, bearing in mind the current circumstances.

“Such a move would be a big help to all involved including SRUC, private vets and flock owners and allow them to maximise animal values in what could well be a tricky and disrupted sales season.”

SRUC veterinary manager, David Wilson, said: “During the Covid-19 situation, SRUC must prioritise its responsibilities for statutory disease, animal welfare, serious disease outbreaks, potential food safety incidents and potential new or emerging diseases.

“We recognise that temporarily losing status is difficult for PSGHS members but these are unprecedented times.

“We are consulting with government agencies, other veterinary organisations and other European MV schemes to investigate the possibility of an extension.

“We are working hard to agree a solution and will issue updated guidance as soon as possible.”

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