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Farm Vets Northwest Targets Schmallenberg Virus

Farm vets in the north west of England have joined forces and are taking a leading role in disease surveillance - and the emerging Schmallenberg virus is one of the key areas of their focus.

Farm Vets Northwest has been formed from 11 practices in Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire specialising in production animals which between them have 110 vets.

Farm Vets Northwest

Vets from Farm Vets Northwest member practices, front, left to right, Robin Brown, Ribble; Ian Hunter, Galemire; back, left to right, David Walmsley, Stanley House; Andrew Fairley, Craig Robinson; Sabine Boye and Pieter Vinter, Rowcliffe House; Mark Stott, Farm Gate; Neil Roberts, Dalehead; David Catlow, Oakhill.

"One of the catalysts to forming the group was our desire to collaborate across the region and take a leading role in disease surveillance on farms and, in turn, help our farmer clients control disease," said David Catlow, of member practice Oakhill, Goosnargh.

"We felt that by working collectively with the links and the geographic spread we have, we could be at the forefront, sharing knowledge and experiences and being able to alert our clients as quickly as possible about the spread of disease and how we can implement control strategies, including vaccination when it becomes available," added Mr Catlow.

Working with MSD Animal Health, Farm Vets Northwest has begun a programme of on farm tests of dairy cattle and sheep to help determine the incidence in the region of the Schmallenburg virus, which is borne by midges and is associated with a reduction in milk production in dairy cattle and late abortion and birth defects in newborn cattle and sheep.

As part of the Farm Vets Northwest first surveillance project, 50 milk samples tested from dairy herds across the northwest showed 39 positive, seven negative and four inconclusive.

This indicates that some livestock are carriers of Schmallenberg virus and Farm Vets Norwest plans to help farmers manage the outcome.

Each of the group’s practices initially has taken bulk tank samples for their dairy farmer clients across their area for testing, funded by MSD Animal Health, as part of the surveillance scheme.

Blood testing of sheep will follow to give a more detailed analysis of the incidence of the disease.

MSD Animal Health’s veterinary adviser Ian Anderson said: “MSD Animal Health has developed a vaccine based on wild-type Schmallenberg virus that has been inactivated and contains an adjuvant that stimulates the immune response.

“In the studies to date, safety and efficacy has been demonstrated in cattle and sheep.

MSD Animal Health is currently working closely with the regulatory authorities and cannot speculate as to when the vaccine will be available.”

Industry experts are concerned at the lack of statistical evidence of the incidence of the disease now in its second year and surveillance is unlikely to be funded by Government because of spending constraints - but it is believed that Schmallenberg has already spread to the north west of England.

Positive tests for the Schmallenberg virus will be plotted on a map to show the extent of the incidence of the virus across the Farm Vets Northwest region which will then be highlighted to livestock farmers in the region.

Farm Vets Northwest plans to raise farmer awareness of the disease through an information document and vets will collaborate on the very latest disease and vaccine information.

The group’s practices cover a wide area of the north west:

Cumbria - Belle Vue Vets, Wigton. Craig Robinson Vets, Carlisle. Farm Gate Vets, Kendal. Galemire Veterinary Hospital, Cleator Moor. Rowcliffe House Vets, Penrith. The Green Veterinary Surgery, Skelton.

Lancashire - Ribble Vets, Penwortham, Preston. Stanley House Vets, Colne. Farm Gate Vets, Lancaster. Oakhill Veterinary Centre, Goosnargh.

Yorkshire - Dalehead Veterinary Group, Settle.

The vets are also keen to work together to fight other major livestock diseases, such as BVD, the target of a Government backed eradication scheme in neighbouring Scotland, and TB.

As well as sharing resources and knowledge, the group's member practices want to encourage new entrants to the profession to work and stay in the area.

Committed to supporting the region's predominantly dairy, beef and sheep producers, this is reflected in continuing professional development for vets with from member practices, a further benefit of working together as a group.

Farm Vets Northwest

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