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Call to Sheep Producers to Watch for Scrapie

24 July 2014

AUSTRALIA - Sheep producers are being called on to help maintain Australia's favourable trading status by keeping a close eye on their flocks for any signs of the disease scrapie, and earn money at the same time.

The incentive payment available to producers has doubled to A$100 for any sheep showing signs of neurological disease that are tested for scrapie.

The increase to the incentive payment has been funded by Wool Producers Australia and the Sheepmeat Council of Australia.

Biosecurity Queensland's Dr Janine Barrett said the National TSE Surveillance Program helped demonstrate to trading partners and the World Organisation for Animal Health that Australia was free of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE), including scrapie, in sheep.

"If we ever have scrapie here it would seriously impact Australia's ability to trade," Dr Barrett said.

"It is vital that we can prove our scrapie-free status to safeguard our market access.

"The surveillance program requires Queensland to collect and test brain samples from a targeted number of sheep each year.

"We need producers to help us to meet this target."

Dr Barrett said the surveillance program also made it possible to identify what disease any sheep submitted may be suffering from, and to prevent or treat those conditions in future.

"Livestock producers will receive $100 for each sheep that is assessed as eligible for the TSE surveillance program," she said.

"In addition, incentive payments are also available to your veterinarian to reduce the veterinary costs, and the laboratory tests for scrapie and other diseases are provided at no cost to the producer."

Producers who have sheep showing clinical signs have been asked to contact Biosecurity Queensland or their local veterinarian to determine whether they are eligible for the incentive payment.

Scrapie is a degenerative disease that affects the nervous systems of sheep and goats.

Eligible sheep must be examined by a veterinarian or government animal health officer and display scrapie-like signs.

Clinical signs can include changes in behaviour or temperament, scratching / itching or wool loss, stumbling and difficulty in walking.

Sheep must be at least 18 months old and preferably under five years of age. The incentive payment is available for a maximum of two animals per disease incident.

The National TSE Surveillance Program is managed by Animal Health Australia and is implemented through state and territory animal health agencies.

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