A flock of sheep in a winter landscape. Photo.

NORSE – Nordic Ovine Research, Surveillance and Epidemiology

Project leader: Clare Phythian, Norges Miljø- og Biovitenskaplige Universitet, Veterinærhøgskolen

Period: 2018–2019


The Nordic countries have a strong history of recording animal health data and strict biosecurity and are leading the world in the lowest registered use of antimicrobials in livestock. In this regard there has been a tradition of collaboration on major livestock species (cattle, pigs and poultry) in the Nordic area.

However, to our knowledge, there has previously been no collaboration on research into infectious disease and AMR or sharing of animal health data for sheep.

The World Organization for Health identifies that we are currently in a “post-antibiotic era” and greater antimicrobial stewardship and concerted global efforts in livestock disease control are necessary. Here, epidemiological research and surveillance into common infectious diseases, particularly bacterial infections, that are currently treated with antibiotics and monitoring and surveillance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in sheep may be a very relevant common interest and provide a potential area for long-term collaboration for a European-funded project.


The aim of this project is to establish a new, Nordic network on ovine research, surveillance and epidemiology, called “NORSE”. The network will be created between veterinary epidemiologists, industry bodies and veterinarians working in the field of preventative sheep flock health.

Creating a new, collaborative and cross-Nordic network in ovine health and the epidemiology of infectious diseases of sheep would help to identify current and shared knowledge gaps in understanding the risks and transmission for infection and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in sheep. Such work is crucial for informing evidence-based advice and effective management inputs on sheep farms, improved and targeted medicines use (specifically antibiotics) and focus on preventative health planning and disease control beyond the individual flock or country-level.

The short-term aim of the network is to identify key knowledge gaps on infectious disease control and antibiotic use in sheep across the Nordic region. Members will remain in contact via email, video conferencing between face-to-face network meetings, network countries will discuss, share and compare current disease surveillance strategies for sheep including statutory syndromic disease surveillance as performed by official veterinarians and meat inspector, national producer/farming industry registrations and other official or voluntary data maintained on medicines use (antibiotic use) in sheep.

Potential for sharing of national datasets and collaborative epidemiological analysis will be explored during network communications and involvement of stakeholders from farming and food industries.

In addition to network member meetings, at least one knowledge exchange meeting with sheep farmers and a sheep veterinary specialist will be delivered in each of the participating Nordic countries. During the meeting, the knowledge, attitudes and practices of sheep producers will be collated as part of participatory epidemiology approach designed to identify industry needs and priority areas for research.

The overall goal of the network is to identify shared knowledge gaps and priorities for research into infectious disease and AMR that are needed to maintain the safety, sustainability and health of sheepacross the Nordic region.