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Psoroptic mange (scab) is a problem of significant concern for sheep welfare. Many aspects of the epidemiology of the disease contribute to difficulties in diagnosis and the prevention of transmission (O'Brien 1999). Scab is now estimated to cost the UK sheep industry over £8 million per year (Nieuwhof and Bishop 2005), with the costs of insecticide applications far exceeding the economic losses associated with mortality and reduced weight gain (ADAS 2008). The appropriate management of scab in the UK is, therefore, essential on both animal welfare and economic grounds.
Sheep scab is highly localised on some farms, which are likely to report persistent outbreaks over several years (Rose and others 2009), suggesting there are likely to be specific management or environmental risk factors which distinguish the farms on which persistent scab is reported (Rose and Wall 2012). Identification of these risk factors is important since this would allow more effective focusing of management strategies, facilitating the development of regional programmes that target high-risk areas and optimise the use of time and resources (Sargison and others 2007). However, farmer willingness to engage is also an important factor to assess prior to developing costly management initiatives.
A three-page, retrospective questionnaire was designed to gather information on the diagnosis and control of pruritic sheep and the control and treatment of scab-infested flocks in southwest England (defined for …