Worrying reports from Europe about the effects of Schmallenberg disease in its second year has led the National Sheep Association (NSA) to look at ways for the UK to better equip itself to deal with the midge-borne virus.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “Anecdotal reports from France and other areas of Europe suggest Schmallenberg may be causing more problems in its second year than expected, possibly because livestock does not develop the level of immunity anticipated. The lack of statistical evidence means we cannot predict if we will have an on-going problem, but the industry as a whole should be very concerned by the absence of data we have and what has been seen in some early lambing flocks.”
AHVLA and other Government agencies are only collecting data on the distance the disease has spread and do not gather any additional information once the disease has been confirmed in a county. This means there is a concerning lack of data on the level and scale of the problem – a situation that is unlikely to change because of financial constraints created by the Government spending review. AHVLA would be forced to collect the data is Schmallenberg was a notifiable disease, but NSA believes this would not be in the interest of the industry, due to the implications it would have on trade between UK and other countries, both in the EU and further afield.
Mr Stocker says: “It would be great if the Government could collect this data, so we better understood the situation and how to implement control strategies, including vaccination programmes once a vaccine is available. However, given the reality of the situation, NSA feels very strongly that industry should pull together and ensure a solution is found.
“AHVLA has expressed a willingness to advise on what information to seek from farmers, and NSA believes it and other organisations should take up this offer and offer a reporting service for sheep, beef and dairy farmers in the hope of collecting enough data to create a clearer picture.”
NSA has had preliminary discussions with a number of organisations and hopes to move things forward in the coming weeks.
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