Scotland on alert for Schmallenberg virus

A heightened alert warning over the threat of Schmallenberg disease has been issued by the leaders of Scotland’s livestock industry.

Alarm over the escalation and range of cases across England and the rest of Europe has prompted NFU Scotland and country’s beef and sheep organisations to unite and urge all farmers to be extremely cautious about importing any livestock from the risk areas. The overriding priority of all the organisations is to keep Scotland free of the disease.

In a joint statement the group said the situation was evolving rapidly and the risk areas were likely to be growing all the time. They advised Scottish farmers against importing pregnant animals, which may have been exposed to the virus with the foetus already affected.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller, a qualified vet, said some experts were now suggesting the volume of cases being seen was an indication that this is the second year of infection.

“If that is the case then it raises the worrying prospect that the virus may have an effective over wintering mechanism that can deal with European conditions,” he said.

“As Scotland is at the periphery of the virus’ apparent range, there is still the risk that fluctuating weather patterns may allow incursion into naive populations like ours. That scenario spells danger for Scotland but there is little we can do to influence weather-related transmission.

“However, farmers can take responsibility when it comes to exercising caution over imports. The risk associated with imports is increasing as the evidence of longer term infection within Europe builds.”

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