Scotland could now be at risk as Schmallenberg virus shifts north

SCOTTISH livestock producers are on high alert after Defra surveillance for Schmallenberg virus (SBV) has revealed its presence in the north of England.

SBV, first identified as a new virus on German and Dutch farms, spread via midges throughout parts of Europe and southern England last year.

It causes relatively mild conditions in cattle and sheep but where infection takes place during the early stage of pregnancy, it can result in congenital disorders of lambs and calves, stillbirths and abortions.

Cases have been reported in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Denmark, Switzerland and the UK with the virus now being found in many parts of England and Wales.

DEFRA reported this week that positive samples have now been found on farms in North Yorkshire and Northumberland.

There is currently no data for Scotland but the reality is the southern regions of Scotland are now at risk from SBV.

NFU Scotland has provided funding to allow those importing stock from SBV risk areas to test for the virus.

NFU Scotland president, Nigel Miller said: “Those farms in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway planning on putting rams or bulls out in the coming weeks should consider the risk of SBV and seek advice from their vet on the possible benefits of delaying until later in the year.

“Lower temperatures reduce midge and virus activity and present a low transmission window.

“In the meantime, keepers should remain vigilant to any ill health within their herd or flock and test where SBV might be considered as a possible diagnosis.

“Farms carrying animals bought in from affected areas in England and Wales are advised to consider testing those animals through the NFUS testing scheme.

“Samples taken by their vet can be sent to SAC or Biobest where NFUS will help subsidise the cost of the laboratory testing.”