OPA discussion for 2019 Sheep Conference

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The ‘Future Proofing your Sheep Enterprise’ conference is shaping up to be a must attend event for all in the sheep industry.

The conference will take place on Wednesday 2nd October in Greenmount Campus CAFRE and Thursday 3rd October in Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh.

This evening conference jointly organised by CAFRE, Ulster Farmers’ Union, LMC, AFBI, NSA and NIMEA, will focus on a number of topics including ‘protecting future flock productivity from OPA’.

Ovine Pulmonary Adenocarcinoma (OPA) also known as Wheelbarrow disease or Jaagsiekte sheep retrovirus (JSVR), is a disease that sheep farmers are taking a keen interest in. Farmers strive to keep their flocks in peak health, but this disease can be difficult to detect and can result in significant economic losses, particularly in high value breeding flocks.

All breeds of sheep can be affected by OPA. Typical symptoms include - difficulty breathing, marked weight loss and over production of fluid in the lungs. Currently, there is no blood test for the disease and the development of a successful vaccine is still some years away. OPA is usually introduced into a flock via newly purchased animals, who appear in good health but are carrying the JSVR.

Patrick Grant (The Sheep Vet) a keynote speaker for the 2019 sheep conference said: “Ultrasound scanning and post-mortem examinations are good ways to get a handle on a flock’s health status. If you suspect there is OPA in your flock, isolate the suspected animals and contact your vet. At present, there is no treatment for the disease. A post-mortem examination of the lungs will confirm if the disease is present. Ultrasound scanning can be used to detect sheep with small signs of the disease before they show clinical signs.”

Farmers are advised to regularly inspect adult sheep and cull any affected animals.

“Removing affected animals has immediate economic and welfare benefits. OPA poses no risk to human health and sheep can be sold to meat plants before clinical signs develop. I would also encourage sheep farmers to attend this year’s conference to hear in more detail of the work that has been ongoing on OPA,” said Mr Grant.

CAFRE have recognised ultrasound scanning as a measurement tool to identify signs of OPA and so scanned the whole flock, including replacement lambs, initially and now at six-month intervals for the past two years. Eileen McCloskey, CAFRE sheep technologist, will discuss their findings and the benefits to the flock health and performance.

How to book your place: Interest in this event is anticipated to be very high so if you want to be guaranteed a place then you need to book early. Conference cost is £15 per person and includes a light supper. Booking is via the UFU website www.ufuni.org/events.

If you have difficulty booking online, please contact Angela Scott at UFU HQ on 028 9037 0222. Note: Places cannot be reserved and payment in full is required at the time of booking by credit or debit card.