New vets’ sheep group aims to give top advice

The Black Sheep Health Group meeting in Kelso's Cross Keys. L-r back row, Luis Molero, James Crilly, David Taylor and Graeme Rodger; front row l-r, Kath Dun, Sarah Simpson and Catharine Gale.
The Black Sheep Health Group meeting in Kelso's Cross Keys. L-r back row, Luis Molero, James Crilly, David Taylor and Graeme Rodger; front row l-r, Kath Dun, Sarah Simpson and Catharine Gale.

Borders vets have set up a new sheep group to pool expertise and provide the best and latest advice to farmers.

Border Sheep Health, numbering 12 so far, formed in November and hopes to send out its first newsletter to producers this month.

One of the team, Kelso vet Kath Dun, said: “We’re keen to highlight topical disease issues in sheep and to improve discussion and co-orientated approach, and getting a collaborative message across about sheep husbandry, farming and sheep welfare.

“The group will hopefully be able to give out a unified and impartial voice on sheep veterinary matters and to have a forum upon which to transfer that information to our Borders farmers.”

Kath continued: “As vets we feel a group approach rather than an individual practice approach will enable us to get information out to farmers more effectively. By combining veterinary strengths and expertise, we can give out unbiased advice and recommendations.

“However, we would always encourage farmers to speak in more depth with their own veterinary practice, as their own vets are the ones who know their farm and flock best of all.”

Kath explained the group came about after Galashiels vet David Taylor attended an international sheep conference in New Zealand last February and was inspired by the way vet practices there worked together in an area to discuss sheep matters, and to collaborate information to disseminate to sheep farmers.

“He thought that with the high number of sheep farms here in the Borders, and with a great number of experienced and enthusiastic sheep practitioners across the region, that perhaps a group could be set up in our area”.

All practices across the region were approached about joining and most are represented, she said, along with a vet from the SAC Veterinary Investigation Centre at Greycrook, St Boswells.

The group plans to meet four to five times a year and produce articles, information bulletins, do radio features, produce newsletters and perhaps set up information/practical meetings for farmers.

Kath said: “We’re lucky to have a high population of sheep in our area, so we need to be top of our game as veterinary surgeons to ensure that correct and valid advice and support is given to our farmers to ensure good health, welfare and productivity on their farms.

“Many of the health issues in sheep are both seasonal and weather-dependent – for example, we need to be able to look at weather forecasting for a particular year and for our particular area, and decide on the risk factors for parasites like liver fluke and how severe the challenge to sheep will be for that year. Extra wet summers lead to a higher risk of liver fluke, problems of death and ill thrift in our flocks throughout the autumn and winter months. Similarly, the busiest time in the sheep health calendar is likely to be around lambing time, so we need to target our advice and expertise around that time.”

The Southern will carry features from Border Sheep Health throughout the year.