Renfrewshire Council

Cows and sheep

Animal health

Animal feed - Bluetongue - Foot and mouth disease - Rabies - Sheep scab Bird flu - Pet travel scheme

Trading standards officers are responsible for animal welfare and disease control in Renfrewshire. They have to be ready at all times to deal with outbreaks of diseases like:

  • rabies
  • foot and mouth
  • bird flu, and
  • bluetongue.

Trading standards make sure that farms and other animal establishments keep proper records and that all animals can be identified, including horses.

They make sure that animal welfare is protected and that animal feed is wholesome and safe.

Animal feed

Animal feed plays an important part in the food chain and has implications for the composition and quality of the livestock products (milk, meat and eggs) that people consume.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for drawing up the rules on the composition and marketing of animal feed.

The FSA is also responsible for improving food safety right through the food chain. This includes improving hygiene on the farm and making sure that human health is not put at risk through what is fed to animals.

On 1 January 2006, food hygiene legislation was applied to farmers, growers and other producers, in many cases for the first time, as part of the 'farm to fork' approach to food safety.

The FSA have developed a question and answer section on their website for these primary users.

Bluetongue

Bluetongue is a notifiable insect-borne viral disease that affects all ruminants, such as cattle, goats, deer and, more severely sheep.

It cannot be spread directly between animals and relies on the midge as a vector for transmission.

The disease does not affect humans and there are no public health or food safety implications.

During 2007 there were a number of cases of bluetongue reported in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. During 2008 disease recurred in these areas and spread northwards, eastwards and to the UK.

In response to this increased disease risk to Scottish bluetongue susceptible livestock sectors, a compulsory vaccination (BTV8) programme was initiated on 3 November 2008. It was suspended on 25 October 2009 at the beginning of the winter "transmission free" period during which time bluetongue is not transmitted by midges.

  • From 5 July 2011 Great Britain is officially a free area from bluetongue.
  • Restrictions regarding bluetongue have been lifted for livestock exporters.
  • All animals imported from other bluetongue zones in the European Union will need to meet strict import requirements.
  • Post import testing for animals from all high risk countries will continue, as well as monitoring the threat of a bluetongue incursion to Great Britain.
  • As of the 5th July 2011 vaccination for bluetongue is prohibited.

For up to date information on bluetongue and other animal disease outbreaks, please visit the The Scottish Government website.

Foot and mouth disease

Foot and mouth disease is an infectious disease affecting cloven-hoofed animals, in particular cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer.

Trading standards officers help to prevent the spread of the disease by working with other agencies to produce a disease contingency plan.

The plan sets out the procedures to follow if an outbreak arises.

Rabies

Rabies is a fatal viral disease of the nervous system which can affect all mammals, including humans.

The disease is usually spread by saliva from the bite of an infected animal.

Clinical signs include paralysis and aggression leading to a painful death. Once clinical signs are shown, there is no known cure.

Classical rabies was eradicated from the UK in 1922.

Our island status makes it unlikely that rabies will be introduced through natural wildlife spread. The largest risk for rabies entering Scotland would be through an infected animal being brought into the country illegally.

Scotland is currently free of terrestrial animal rabies as are a number of other countries including many in the EU. However, rabies is still widely distributed across the world, is present on all continents and endemic in most African and Asian countries.

For up to date information on foot and mouth outbreaks, please visit the GOV.UK website.

Sheep scab

Sheep-scab is a condition in sheep which is caused by infestation of a particular type of mite, known as the 'sheep-scab mite'.

This mite is a very small wingless parasite only just visible to the naked eye, and can only be seen properly using a magnifying glass or a microscope.

Sheep scab is one of the most contagious parasitic diseases of sheep in Great Britain and is now considered to be endemic.

The condition itself is a form of allergic dermatitis caused by the highly parasitic scab mite Psoroptes ovis. The female mite lays one or two eggs daily in the fleece of the sheep for about 40 days. Under ideal conditions, larval mites hatch from eggs and go through various development stages to become adults after two weeks. The mites feed on the surface of the skin.

The intense irritation they cause is believed to be a result of an allergic reaction of the sheep to the mite and its faeces. The severity of this reaction varies with the strain of the mite, between individual sheep and also between breeds.

Mites can also exist off the sheep and are considered to be able to remain infective for up to sixteen days. Although transmission is usually sheep to sheep; transporters, fence posts used for rubbing, bushes, trees and contaminated clothes and equipment can be a source of infection.

If left untreated this disease seriously affects the welfare of sheep and has a significant economic impact through its effect on the condition of ewes, reduced quality of sheepskins, the growth rate of lambs and damage to wool.

New controls to deal with the increasing incidence of sheep scab were introduced on 17 December 2010.

This new Sheep Scab (Scotland) Order 2010 places a legal obligation on any person who has reason to believe that sheep in their possession or care have sheep scab to notify their local Divisional Veterinary Manager as soon as possible.

These new measures will also enable enforcement action to be taken against those owners and keepers whose sheep are suspected of having scab, but who repeatedly fail to take the necessary action to treat, undermining the efforts of the majority to prevent the spread of the disease. Guidance on this Order is available.

Bird flu

Only one strain of bird flu or 'avian influenza' can be passed to humans. To pose a risk to humans, the virus needs to mutate and be capable of spreading from human to human.

Known outbreaks of bird flu in Asia and Eastern Europe have been linked to places where poultry is kept in very poor conditions. Poultry in the UK are kept under better conditions.

If bird flu is discovered in a domestic poultry flock, the people most at risk are those who have had direct and close contact with the birds.

Experts believe that there is a theoretical risk of people being infected with bird flu if they also have a human flu strain at the same time. This could create a more serious problem.

If bird flu is discovered, various measures will be put in place including:

  • movement controls
  • housing the birds involved
  • increased biosecurity
  • slaughtering of birds, and
  • active cleansing and disinfection. 

These actions prevent the spread of the disease and limit the damage to the farming economy and the wider population.

Trading standards officers help prevent the spread of bird flu by working with other agencies and producing a disease contingency plan.

Find out more about bird flu from the GOV.UK website.

Pet Travel Scheme

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) and quarantine restrictions help protect against infected animals entering the UK, but because of the existence of the disease elsewhere, there are concerns that rabies could be re-introduced by illegally-imported mammals. Most species of rabies-susceptible animals entering the UK are required to either spend six months in quarantine or meet the requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme.

Trading standards' role in preventing the spread of rabies involves checking the importation of cats and dogs at ports and airports, liaising with other agencies to prevent the illegal importation of rabies-susceptible animals, and producing a disease contingency plan that it follows in the event of an outbreak.

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