Monday, 12 November 2012


The growing number of animals infected with the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) has prompted NFU Scotland to re-issue its call for farmer vigilance. Exposure to SBV can result in 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. Spread by midges, it was first identified as a new virus on German and Dutch farms last year and spread throughout parts of Europe and southern England. Results from surveillance across GB indicate much wider evidence of spread of SBV and positive animals have been found in Scotland and the North of England. Last week, saw positive cases in Northern and Southern Ireland. NFU Scotland, in partnership with Scottish Government, Moredun, SAC and Biobest, has put in place a scheme to help monitor the possible spread of SBV into Scotland from animals brought in from risk areas. The NFUS testing scheme, which covers the laboratory cost of the first four tests from farms, will remain open until 1 December 2012. NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said: “SBV is not a notifiable disease and although we have helped to put some surveillance in place, it is far from extensive. I think we have to prepare for the fact that the picture in Scotland can be expected to be worse that the tests reveal. “Although there is no evidence of acute disease in Scotland, post-movement testing shows animals have moved into Scotland that have previously been exposed to the disease. Testing has been limited but finding a number of positive animals in Scotland highlights the probability that greater numbers of animals that have been exposed to the disease have been brought in. “That increases the possibility that infectious animals may be amongst those imports. If SBV has moved into Scotland, the impact will depend on where the disease is, when it arrived and the temperature limits at which the disease can replicate within midges - all questions that we currently cannot answer. “The end of October and start of November traditionally heralds the arrival of the low vector (midge) activity season offering protection to those animals put to the bull or tup from late October onwards. Those breeders that were not able to delay breeding into the low vector season should consider the possible risk that animals may have been affected by SBV during the crucial stage of early pregnancy and, with their vet, consider what actions they may need to take. “Any keepers who have brought animals in from England or Wales should consider testing those animals to ascertain the potential risk. The NFUS testing scheme to cover the lab cost of the first four tests will remain open until 1 December. “Looking further ahead, SBV successfully over-wintered from 2011 to 2012 and if the same happens this winter, then there could be a threat to naïve stock during 2013. The risk for 2013 will depend on winter temperatures, the ability of the virus to transmit vertically from dam to foetus and the effect of summer temperatures on spread. “A vaccine may be available for 2013, and keepers concerned about the risks for 2013 should keep up to date with the vaccine development and discuss the available options with their vet. “At the end of November, NFUS will be rolling out a programme of events for livestock producers and an update on Schmallenberg will be part of the programme at these events.”