Royal Highland Show 2013: Don’t ignore Schmallenberg risks farmers warned

Farmers in Scotland are being urged to act on Schmallenberg virus and make an informed decision about vaccination, following confirmation of a second case of the disease in Aberdeenshire last week.

Two cases have now been confirmed in Scotland and producers are being warned the risk is very real from the midge-borne disease.

Although many beef farmers may have missed the boat to vaccinate stock following the late timing of the vaccine release, sheep producers are being encouraged to consider the risks.

Speaking at the Royal Highland Show, Joanne Pugh of the National Sheep Association said it was important to think through the risk factors.

“Don’t assume just because you are in Scotland you won’t get it. It’s vital to think through the risk factors such as time of lambing, what has happened historically in your area as well as seeking vet advice.”

Ms Pugh said early lambing flocks needed to give vaccination the most consideration. The NSA is also producing a decision tree for members to help farmers make informed decisions along with their vet about vaccination.

However, the risk could be far greater with cattle due to the timings of midge activity, said SAC Consulting veterinary investigation officer Elspeth Scott.

“The risk period when midges will be biting cattle is mid-summer, which is when they could be at the stage of pregnancy when the virus could have an effect. For sheep, the risk period is late November early December, but there is evidence midges can survive in buildings.”

NFU Scotland has also written to all of its members urging them to assess if their livestock is at risk of contracting Schmallenberg virus.

NFU Scotland president and vet Nigel Miller said: “Animals should be vaccinated ahead of breeding to provide protection during the vulnerable stages of early pregnancy. This requirement may limit vaccine use this year, but it may still be an important tool for many livestock keepers in the months ahead.”

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