NI Sheep Scab Scheme

What is Sheep Scab?

Sheep Scab is a form of allergic dermatitis caused by the infestation of the skin surface with the scab mite and is considered the most contagious endemic disease affecting sheep in the UK. It can lead to reduced animal performance and poor animal welfare. To date there has been little research undertaken on Sheep Scab within NI.


How to spot sheep scab

The presence of sheep scab mites and their faeces cause a hypersensitivity response.  This results in intense itching which can lead to sheep biting and nibbling at their fleeces and rubbing against fence posts.


As the disease develops, clinical signs progress from scaly, crusting lesions on wool-covered areas to:

-          Dirty areas of fleece from scratching, especially noted behind the shoulder

-          Broken areas of fleece on the sides of sheep from scratching and biting

-          Sheep losing condition and becoming isolated from the rest of the flock.


Sheep Scab mites can survive off-host for 17 days therefore Scab is challenging to deal with, as infested animals seek relief from irritation by scratching on fence posts, bushes, farm fixtures and equipment leaving mites behind which can then be transferred to other sheep.  Vehicles and trailers used to transport sheep are also a potential source of infestation and should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after use.

The Project

This grassroots initiative, launched in September 2022, focuses on farmers, vets and other industry professionals uniting to tackle the devastating disease which has blighted the sheep farming community and their flocks for decades. Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the project undertaken by AFBI, the NI Sheep Scab Group, Moredun Research Institute and AHWNI aims to address Scab and provide important information as the industry develops future strategies to control this disease.


The project is open to 100 flocks across Northern Ireland on a first-come first-served basis. To date, over thirty farmers across the province have already benefitted from the project and treatment is underway or has been completed in those flocks where Scab has been confirmed.


What does the Project entail?

Your flock will be provided with advice to investigate if Sheep Scab is present and, where necessary, provide support to assist with treatment.  Your nominated vet will be funded to undertake a farm visit and investigate if Sheep Scab is likely to be present in your flock by looking for clinical signs, taking blood samples and possibly skin scrapes. If your vet recommends that treatment is required, the project will fund the supply of prescribed medicines up to a reasonable limit.  (The costs of application of dip or treatment with injectables will be borne by the flock owner).  


How to join?

If your flock has been experiencing any clinical signs or if you have concerns about Sheep Scab in your flock, you may be eligible to participate in the scheme.


Where a farmer wants to check that their flock’s Sheep Scab treatment has been effective, they can apply for a post-treatment blood check test, for cases treated by injectables.


If you would like to find out more information regarding the scheme, please phone AHWNI on 07517 599497/ 028 7963 9333 or email




Associated Programmes BVD Programme Johne's Disease Programme

Developed and led by Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute Agricultural and Rural Development AgriSearch Animal Health and Welfare NI The Association of Veterinary Surgeons Practicing in Northern Ireland College of Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise Dairy Breed Societies Livestock and Meat Commission National Beef Association Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association NI Livestock Auctioneers Association NIVA Ulster Farmers Union


Animal Health and Welfare NI, Unit 49, Dungannon Enterprise Centre, 5 Coalisland, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, BT71 6JT

Telephone:028 79639333