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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

The Cure of Scab

The Cure of Scab.

1. Its Principles.—It will be gathered from the article on Scab in Sheep, that it is necessary, in order to effect a permanent cure of Scab in Sheep, in the first place that the sheep be dipped and re-dipped in some "curative," i.e., a medicament which will completely destroy both the acari and their eggs; and, in the second place, that the sheep which have been thus thoroughly dressed should either be immediately removed to a clean run, or that such a thorough and lasting "disinfectant," i.e., a preservative against re-infection, should be used with the "curative" as would insure the protection of the sheep from the acari existing on the infected run, for a period beyond that during which the insect could possibly live in any other situation than on the sheep.

In early days the former course was adopted in Australia, as there was then plenty of spare clean ground to which the sheep could be removed on being dressed, and a permanent cure was generally effected.

2. Tobacco and Sulphur Cure.—History.—As, however, this country became so thickly stocked as to render it impracticable to find fresh pasturage for such sheep on their being dressed, the other alternative, the employment of a lasting disinfectant with the curative became necessary. Among other specifics for this purpose, sulphur was tried, but with such fluctuating success that its qualities as a disinfectant of sufficient duration to outlive the insect were for some time very much doubted. It was not until 1854, that Mr. John Rutherford, then of Hopkins Hill, now of Yarra Wonga, Upper Murray, Victoria, by properly apportioning the quantities of tobacco and sulphur (viz:—lib. of each to five gallons of water), and by dipping the sheep twice at an interval of from ten to twenty-one days in a careful and systematic manner, fairly established the character of sulphur as a lasting "disinfectant," while at the same time confirmed the belief in tobacco as a most effective "curative," which, although very destructive to insect life, is comparatively innocuous to that of animals.

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Result in Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales.—On the Hopkins Hill Station, Mr. Rutherford, with two dressings of these ingredients, then cured over 52,000 sheep, which had been infected for eighteen months; and he also subsequently cured with two dippings the sheep on Mount Fyan's Station, where they were in a most wretched state, and had been scabby for more than three years; and that, too, in both cases, without destroying a single hurdle or yard, or removing any of the sheep from their old runs.

Since then, millions of scabby sheep have been permanently cured in Victoria in the same way; and in South Australia and New South Wales, hundreds of thousands of scabby sheep have also been cleaned with tobacco and sulphur. In fact, this dressing has the credit of having eradicated scab from the flocks of both these latter colonies; and there are good grounds for asserting that had this remedy not been known and used, neither colony would be, as they both are now, almost entirely from the scourge.

3. Tobacco and Sulphur and other Dressings Contrasted.—The particulars of the dressings used in South Australia are not here adducible, but those of New South Wales are, as returned by the different Inspectors, and they speak for themselves.

They are as follows :—Tobacco and Sulphur cured 184,270, failing at first in some few instances through the carelessness or ignorance of the operators, but in the end proving always successful. Of this number about 116,000 had only two dressings—the regular course—about 17,000 had three, about 33,000 had four, and some 18,000 had five or more, owing to mismanagement in their application.

Allen's Specific cured none, but failed in the case of 80,021. Hayes' Specific cured 6,255, and failed with 80,931. Arsenic, and Arsenic and Tobacco (with fresh runs) cured 9,284, and failed with 9,271.

In England, too, and on the Continent of Europe, the faith in tobacco as the best curative for scab is still unchanged, as may be gathered from the following extract from the Scottish Farmer :—Preparations of tobacco have as yet been recognised as the best for the destruction of the scab insect. Professor Gerlach, Director of the Veterinary College, Hanover, accords them the best position for this purpose, and farmers in this country seem to agree on this point. Experiments on a small scale on the efficacy of specifics for the cure of scab have proved thoroughly unreliable, for all these specifics which cured sheep at the trials which took place in Melbourne some years ago, failed completely when used on stations of even a moderate size; and it would seem that they did so principally from the want of a lasting disinfectant in their composition, such as sulphur has proved to be.

Almost everything tried as cures for scab will be effectual on a small scale. Even soft-soap and warm water frequently applied, have cleaned page 163 a scabby sheep. Preparations of corrosive sublimate arsenic, sulphuric acid, and other poisonous ingredients for the cure of scab should be avoided for the following reasons :—1st. They are liable to poison the sheep if administered in the shape of a bath, and their application by hand is impracticable considering the rate of wages and the number of sheep to be dressed. 2nd. To cause them to lose their teeth, and even to hurt their constitutions. 3rd. To bring on sloughing and ulcerations, which frequently carry numbers of them off, and in the case of the arsenical dressing, cold wet weather following the dip is certain to cause a great many deaths In some instances, during the last outbreak of scab in New South Wales, the deaths from dipping with arsenic in winter were from 40 to 50, and in one flock as high as 80 per cent. 4th. To cause great loss in wool. 5th. To occasion painful sores on the hands, and even deaths among the men dressing. And 6th, to be the means, through carelessness on the part of persons using the poison, of causing the deaths of animals, and sometimes even of human beings. Besides, the advocates for the use of any of these poisonous ingredients forget they are only curatives, not disinfectants; and they will find on inquiry that the cures of former days, which they attribute to these medicaments, were only affected through placing the sheep on clean runs immediately after dressing, or perhaps by keeping up such a regular round of spotting and dressing with some of these ingredients, as to continue their effect on the sheep beyond the term of the existence of the acari.