Sheep farmers should plan to undertake routine vaccinations as soon as possible to avoid clashing with bluetongue vaccination once it arrives, according to manufacturer Intervet.

The first doses of bluetongue vaccine are likely to be available from vets in the middle of May for farms in the protection zone, explains the company’s Rosemary Booth.

“Thereafter, further deliveries will be at varying times over the summer and many farmers may not know when they will be able to use the vaccine until the last minute.

“Because the bluetongue vaccine should not be used at the same time as any other vaccine, it makes sense to get any other vaccinations out of the way as early as possible.

“Vaccinating lambs against pasteurella and clostridial diseases requires two ddoses, the first at no less than three weeks old and the second 4-6 weeks later. The second dose is essential if lambs are to acquire the required level of immunity. Delaying vaccination could lead to potential conflicts if bluetongue vaccine arrives between the two dosing dates.”

Also, Ms Booth suggests providing lambs with maximum immunity to other diseases before they may be subjected to challenge by the bluetongue virus. “The better immunity a lamb has against a range of other bacteria, the better its chances are of surviving a bluetongue challenge.”