Scientists, led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), are working closely with industry partners, including lead partner Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), on the programme, named Paraban. This focuses on Johne’s Disease, which causes difficulties in the Scottish cattle industry.
The research programme is also funded by the Scottish Finding Council in partnership with the Scottish Government.
Around 40 Caithness livestock farmers turned up to a meeting last week at monitor farm Westfield, near Thurso, which focuses solely on the disease. Now, a further nine holdings from Caithness to Cumbria will be put under scrutiny in the hope that more light can be shed on the cause of the disease and how to prevent it taking root.
QMS said that, in all herds, regular testing and prompt action to manage the animals that test positive have reduced the incidence of Johne’s.
Inverness-based SRUC epidemiologist Selene Huntley said: “Our message is to test regularly and have a clear management strategy of isolating and culling members of the herd that have positive tests.”
Huntley also explained that, in the two years since testing had begun, “we have seen a gradual decrease in the number of infected animals in the herds”.
“We advocate frequent testing of the whole herd and agreement between farmers and their vets as to what long-term control strategies they need to implement,” added Huntley.
She also urged producers to stop “burying their heads in the sand” and test more frequently.
In the next monitor meeting at Westfield, the impact of CAP reforms will be discussed, which will take place mid-January.