As we bid goodbye to 2012 we take a look at some of the events that maked the year. Throughout last year the Schmallenberg virus continued to make its presence known on UK farms

A small town in Germany became forever synonymous with a disease in sheep and cattle.

In 2011, Schmallenberg in the North Rhine region of Germany was the first place to record a case of a virus that caused deformities in newborn sheep and cattle.

Spread by biting midges, the virus infected thousands of animals in late 2011, sweeping across the Continent and into England. In the UK, counties closest to the Continent, along the south and east coasts, fell victim first. As the lambing season of 2012 progressed, evidence of the disease showed in the newborn animals on farms that had succumbed. The sad sight of lambs and calves born viable apart from twisted limbs and fused bones became all too frequent.

Then cases tailed-off. It was hoped the disease may have died during the winter months of 2011, but those hopes were dashed in the summer when more and more cases came to light. At the end of the year more than 700 cases had been recorded and vets warned that the virus was moving faster across the UK than bluetongue disease did in 2007. Livestock keepers across Britain are praying that a vaccine, already developed, will be available soon. But with the breeding season for sheep already advanced, most of those in the firing line can only hope their flocks have not been infected.

More on this topic

Keep up with the latest news on the Schmallenberg virus