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The National Scrapie Plan

Scrapie is a fatal progressive neurological disorder of sheep. It is perhaps the most widely recognised spongiform encephalopathy of animals. The disease has been reported in many countries and has been recognised in British sheep flocks for over two centuries, having been first recorded in 1732. Scrapie affects sheep and goats naturally and can be transmitted experimentally to several animal species.

Scrapie in sheep has a virtually worldwide distribution but is notably absent in Australia and New Zealand. Most breeds and both sexes are affected and the age of peak incidence is about 3½ years. The onset of disease is insidious and frequently subtle, though usually clear enough to permit a diagnosis by the experienced observer.

As foreshadowed in the Action Plan for Farming launched at the Prime Ministers farming summit on 30 March 2000 the first phase of the National Scrapie Plan is to be a programme for breeding genetic resistance to Scrapie in the national flock.

The recently launched initial stage is an invitation to breeders of pedigree sheep to have up to 40 animals tested free. Breeders will be expected to cull rams with a low genetic resistance and to modify their breeding policies to increase the resitant genes within their flocks.

The Nutwood Flock took part in the scheme and our first batch of sheep were tested in July 2002. As it is now acknowledged that Scrapie is not masking BSE in sheep, the scheme has now been abandoned, the last lambs being tested in 2008.