Northern Ireland’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) is set to host an event to raise awareness of a highly-infectious sheep disease not common in Northern Ireland.

Ovine Pulmonary Adenocarcinoma (OPA)  – which is also known as ‘Jaagsiekte’, or colloquially as ‘wheelbarrow disease’ – affects the lungs of sheep causing tumour growth, with symptoms including coughing, loss of condition and sometimes sudden death due to secondary Pasteuralla pneumonia.

Infected sheep can pine away and have clear discharges from the nose. The disease eventually causes death.

It’s important sheep farmers are aware of the early symptoms, as once it is established, the disease is notoriously difficult to eradicate from a flock, with culling often the only solution.

The virus is carried in the nasal fluid, which allows the infection to spread to other sheep in the flock.

Detecting OPA

Ultrasound examination of the lungs can be used to detect the disease in its early-stage cases.

Routine post-mortem examination of some thin cull ewes might also detect the presence of the disease in a flock.

Farmers should consider scanning sheep to take out carriers or infected animals. The so-called ‘wheelbarrow test’ will only detect late-stage cases.

It is important to note that sheep can show symptoms from around six months of age onwards.

Awareness event

The event aims to provide Northern Ireland sheep farmers and industry with a background to OPA.

Jason Barley from AFBI’s Veterinary Sciences Division will provide a background to OPA and will cover detection and control methods.

CAFRE staff will be available to discuss how OPA has affected the CAFRE sheep flocks and what control methods have been put in place to help control the disease.

Patrick Grant, ‘The Sheep Vet’, will provide an overview of his findings carrying out OPA scanning for several years.

Grant will also give an insight into the scanning process through a live scanning demonstration.

UFU deputy president David Brown said: “This is an extraordinary event which has been organised specifically for sheep farmers.

“It will be a key opportunity to see and hear about the impact of this disease at farm-level. The ultrasound scanning demonstration will enable farmers to see what the disease looks like. Sheep farmers across Northern Ireland take their flock health very seriously, and this is an excellent opportunity to hear more about OPA.”

The event, which is run in conjunction with the Ulster Farmers’ Union, will take place at Greenmount Hill Farm, 62c Glenhead Road, Glenwherry on Friday, June 14, 2019 at 1:00pm.