Farmers on alert for virus

With the news that a tup brought in from Shropshire to the north of Scotland has tested positive for Schmallenberg virus (SBV), NFUS is advising livestock keepers to be vigilant for the disease.

SRUC will test contact animals although, given the recent cold weather, it is unlikely that the disease will have become established.

It is just over a week since Defra reported positive SBV samples on farms in North Yorkshire and Northumberland, prompting NFUS to advise Scottish livestock producers importing stock from SBV-risk areas to take up NFUS, the Scottish government and SRUC’s scheme to screen animals for the virus.

NFUS president Nigel Miller said: “NFUS received news of a tup in the north of Scotland which had been brought in from an SBV-risk area testing positive for the disease. Contact animals will be tested although it is hoped that the disease will not have spread. The weather has been cold recently, which inhibits insect vectors, such midges, and it is, therefore, likely that any potential spread will be blocked.

“The tup’s owner is to be com­mended for conducting the test and the event underlines the need for all livestock farmers importing stock from SBV-risk areas to test animals.

“There is no structured ‘sentinel’ surveillance in northern England or Scotland and it is, therefore, possible that the disease is already circulating in the south of Scotland. As midges and other vectors are likely to be active for at least another three weeks, we are advising members to speak to their vet if they are concerned.

“Schmallenberg is still a relatively new disease and we are not yet familiar with all its attributes, but it can impact severely on pregnant livestock, especially sheep, resulting in reduced foetal viability and deformities.”