Treatment announced for Schmallenberg Virus

Sheep feeding near Scott's View in the Scottish Borders.
Sheep feeding near Scott's View in the Scottish Borders.

A vaccine to combat the Schmallenberg Virus is being made available to farmers, ideally for use before putting ewes to the ram this year.

First diagnosed in Holland and Belgium, the virus has spread slowly from the south of Britain during the last year and was discovered to be present in the Borders during late spring.

Defra says that the virus has been associated with what it terms “brief mild/moderate disease,” i.e. milk drop, pyrexia or diarrhoea in adult cattle, as well as late abortion and birth defects in newborn cattle, sheep and goats.

Different vaccines have been developed by MSD Animal Health for use on cattle and sheep.

Non-pregnant cattle can then be vaccinated from two months old, with two injections, four weeks apart.

And non-pregnant sheep can be treated from four months of age, with a single injection.

Animals in both species are considered immune from three weeks after the final treatment, though studies are still ongoing to determine the duration of immunity.

Farmers are advised to vaccinate stock ahead of breeding to protect vulnerable animals in the earlier stages of pregnancy.

Owners are also urged to consult their vet before embarking on treatment, as factors influencing the need for vaccination can include location,the weather and the likelihood of previous exposure.

Prices for the vaccine are not set at the time of going to press, but are expected to be similar to other treatments produced by MSD Animal Health.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), recognising the urgent need for the vaccine, accelerated the assessment procedure to ensure it was available this summer.