Islandmagee vet wants to hear farmers’ views on sheep medicine

An Islandmagee veterinarian is seeking the input of farmers to new research on sheep medicine in Northern Ireland flocks.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 6:03 pm

Paul Crawford, who grew up in the east Antrim village where he kept sheep on his family small-holding, has embarked on PhD through Harper Adams University, England.

A former president of the Association of Veterinary Surgeons Practising in Northern Ireland (AVSPNI), Paul’s interest was sparked by a Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) advertisement of a fully-funded project on sheep medicine.

Paul, a former Carrickfergus Grammar School pupil and a Royal Veterinary College graduate, said he had a long-held interest in sheep and the ending of a previous business meant he didn’t hesitate to apply.

The research will focus on improving stewardship of medicines on sheep farms.

The PhD will focus on improving stewardship of medicines on Northern Ireland sheep farms. A number of phases will be rolled out over the next two and a half years. The overall concept of improving stewardship and the health and welfare of the flock is more important than simple arithmetic reductions in total medicines used, Paul noted.

“There’s very little UK-wide research currently published on the amount and type of medicines used in sheep flocks and even less specifically in relation to Northern Ireland, so I hope my work will go some way to redressing the balance,” he said.

Phase one will see Paul strive to get a clearer picture of the medicines used on farms in Northern Ireland via an online survey and farmer interviews.

“The survey will focus on sheep scab which is an endemic problem in sheep in Northern Ireland that causes significant welfare issues to flocks. It also causes no small measure of stress to the farmers in terms of economic damage to their business and damage to their mental health,” Paul added.

Paul Crawford.

“I now need help recruiting sheep farmers to complete the survey, whether they have one sheep or a thousand and regardless of if they see scab every year or if they’ve never seen it.

“It’s vitally important we reach all types of sheep farmer; from the full-time sheep only farmer and those with mixed farms which include some sheep, to those with small pedigree flocks and ‘hobby’ farmers with only a few sheep.”

Paul will then move on to interview farmers and vets to establish how and why antimicrobial medicines are used on farms, how such decisions are reached and how their use is recorded.

Phase two will consist of a series of in-depth discussions with a subset of farmers, looking at their perception of flock health and how they might improve medicine stewardship. The farmers will work in conjunction with their vet to draw up a plan to improve stewardship, which they’ll follow for between 12 and 18 months. Progress will be tracked via repeat interviews.

The final phase will consist of a series of knowledge exchange activities where findings will be discussed and disseminated.But before that can happen, the first phase needs to be completed.

Paul says: “Please take 10 minutes, now, to complete the survey. It will be a small step forward in getting control of this insidious problem among our sheep’.

To participate in the survey, visit: https://harper-adams.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/ni-sheep-scab-survey

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Click here to read: Islandmagee man takes reins at veterinary surgeons’ association

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