Preparations made to combat virus

THE NFU has described news that the Schmallenberg Virus will bring fresh outbreaks in the spring as “disappointing but not a surprise”.

Speaking at an NFU conference, animal health adviser Catherine McLaughlin said more needed to be done to identify where the disease is circulating to help farmers plan and avoid livestock contact with midges that can infect the animal with the virus.

“Scientists from the Royal Veterinary College have confirmed that the Schmallenberg virus has over-wintered,” she said. “This is concerning for our members who will be planning autumn breeding, a critical time. Animals infected with the virus during the early months of pregnancy are most at risk of producing deformed offspring. This is obviously a great worry for our members.

“However, early reports show livestock that had the disease this year will have developed immunity and this will help build a natural resistance here in the UK.

“What we need is more efficient and effective diagnostics on the ground identifying where the Schmallenberg virus is, and therefore likely to cause potential problems. This will be the best tool to help farmers in the fight against the disease this year. We also need to have the vaccine, which we understand has been developed to be licensed and approved as soon as possible. While this won’t help those farmers with infected animals, it will start to protect those in areas that have not yet seen the disease.

“We would ask members to be vigilant and report any symptoms to the local vet or animal health office.”