2013-03-27 xml
First Evidence of Schmallenberg Virus Circulating in Scotland from Barony Herd

Farmers have been urged to remain vigilant after the first evidence has emerged from Barony that Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) was circulating in Scotland in 2012.

Eight cows in a dairy herd at the Barony campus of Scotland’s Rural College have tested positive for SBV antibodies. It indicates there was exposure to the virus in 2012, although at a low level. The animals were homebred with no additions to the herd from outside Scotland. There have been no deformed calves born to the 160-strong herd.

Dairy Cow

photo © farm-images

The Schmallenberg virus, which is spread by midges, can cause abortions and birth defects in animals like sheep and cattle. It was first detected in the South of England in January 2012. Although a small number of animals that had recently been moved into Scotland have previously tested positive for SBV antibodies, this report is the first evidence that suggests exposure to infected midges in Scotland.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“Since Schmallenberg was first detected in England we have watched it spread slowly northwards. Confirmation of its arrival in Scotland is, therefore, no surprise but is nonetheless disappointing and undoubtedly a headache which farmers could do without at the moment.

“Following that confirmation, farmers should continue to exercise vigilance, particularly when moving animals onto their farm and should consider testing breeding stock for the SBV antibody.

"Current evidence from surveillance carried out across Europe suggests that infection with Schmallenberg virus has a relatively low impact but we know that it can cause difficulties when cows or ewes are infected in the early stages of pregnancy.”

In Conjunction with NFU Scotland, SAC Consulting Veterinary Services and Biobest are about to begin a Schmallenberg surveillance scheme in Scotland. They are identifying dairy farms that would be willing to take part in the testing of bulk milk to help flag up any spread of the virus across the country.

For SAC Consulting Colin Mason, Veterinary Disease Surveillance Centre Manager at Dumfries, said:

“These new results arose from testing we chose to do as part of other routine sampling at Barony. While the results were unexpected they will now help us plan our breeding programme and consider vaccination when it becomes available later this year. That’s exactly what we hope any findings of the proposed screening programme will help others with.”

Brian Hosie, who is Manager of SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, urges any farmers who encounter foetal abnormalities, stillbirths or newborns showing signs of nervous disease to contact their vet, or local SAC Consulting DSC laboratory:

“However don’t automatically assume these are cases of Schmallenberg virus infection as other diseases can cause birth defects in lambs and calves,” he says. “It t is important to know which you are dealing with.”

SBV was first identified in 2011 and has been detected in a number of countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and France as well as in England, Wales and Ireland. SBV is not notifiable in the UK and no restrictions are placed on infected premises.

Under the proposed NFUS, SAC Consulting and Biobest scheme, farmers will be asked to submit three samples for testing at three monthly intervals. Potential farmers will be approached by one of the partners or can put themselves forward. Farms will be selected on the basis of geographical spread and, to be of most benefit, should be closed herds or herds that have not bought in large numbers of animals from high risk areas. The work is being funded by NFUS.


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