Livestock

'Worrying' increase in Schmallenberg disease losses

Tuesday 08 January 2013 17:03
Lamb left deformed by the Schmallenberg virus

Cases of the Schmallenberg virus in sheep and cattle have continued to rise across the UK, with losses as high as 60% being reported in some early lambing flocks.

The most recent results from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency show the total reported cases to be 976, with almost 300 cases in sheep. The worst affected area remains the South West and Southern England, with an increasing number of cases in Cheshire and Shropshire.

Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association said he had heard reports of losses as high as 60% in some early lambing flocks, which he described as "worrying".

"With this number of losses, the disease is probably having a bigger impact than bluetongue. DEFRA are still calling the disease low impact and that may, or may not, be the case. But for the individuals it is not low impact at all," he said.

Matt Holmes farming near Exeter, Devon witnessed 20% lamb losses on his stepfather's farm as a result of Schmallenberg. He estimated the cost of Schmallenberg could run in to thousands of pounds.

"With this number of losses, the disease is probably having a bigger impact than bluetongue. DEFRA are still calling the disease low impact and that may, or may not, be the case. But for the individuals it is not low impact at all."
Phil Stocker, National Sheep Association, chief executive

Out of a 70 ewe batch of Poll Dorset ewes that lambed last month, 14 of the ewes gave birth to deformed lambs.

Ewes on the farm were scanned in early summer with 70 showing barren, which were consequently put back with the tup in July. "It's these ewes that have been infected with the disease, as the flock lambing in September were fine," he said.

Mr Holmes reckoned the disease cost the farm at least £1,800 from the lamb losses alone. "If you take £90 for a new season lamb and we have lost about 20, that's £1,800 from direct losses alone," he said.

Mr Holmes said he is really worried about the effect it may have on his suckler herd too. "We have a 100 suckler cows and finish all of our own calves - if we begin losing them, you are looking at £1,000 a calf," he says.

View Schmallenberg data Jan 2013 in a full screen map

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