St Boswells vets confirm Scotland’s first case of Cattle Scab on Borders farm

The mite that causes Cattle Scab
The mite that causes Cattle Scab

Scotland’s first case of Cattle Scab since the early 1980s has been confirmed at an unnamed farm in the Borders.

It was diagnosed by vets from Scotland’s Rural College working at the SAC’s Veterinary Investigation Centre at St Boswells.

Properly known as Psoroptic Mange it’s caused by mites that pierce the skin to feed which causes immense irritation in the infected animal.

Clusters of Cattle Scab have been found in Wales, south west England, in Yorkshire, in Ireland and mainland Europe – but so far Scotland has remained clean.

Helen Cart of the Scottish Agricultural College described the scab as a severe skin disease with serious implications for cattle if not quickly identified and correctly treated.

She added: “It has the potential to become established in Scotland because of the movement of animals and the difficulties of treatment. I would urge farmers to remain vigilant for any signs of Cattle Scab and to notify their vet of any suspect cases.”

Dr Alasdair Nisbet of the Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh warned: “Cattle may not show signs immediately after infection, allowing the silent spread of disease within, and between, herds.”

Stow farmer Nigel Miller, president of the National Farmers Union in Scotland said: “It is imperative that infected cattle are locked-down for transport if this parasite is not to become an endemic problem in Scotland.

“If it does become endemic it will affect the status of Scottish cattle and undo the hard work of the industry to establish a reputation for quality within Scottish cattle.”

Ms Cart admitted that treatment of Cattle Scab was problematic. She explained: “Successful treatment is not straightforward.

“All the animals in the group, and any other in-contact animals, regardless of whether they are showing clinical signs, must be treated.

“Experience in Wales suggests the mites are resistant to commonly used products and none are licensed for use in milking dairy cows.”

Cattle Scab –unlike Sheep Scab – is not a notifiable disease but NFU Scotland says the Scottish Government should make it one.