Schmallenberg vaccine price causes anger

The NFU has received complaints from sheep farmers who are disappointed at the high price for the newly released Schmallenberg vaccine.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly, NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said some farmers told him they’d been quoted up to £4.40 a head for the vaccine.

“It’s more expensive than we were led to believe. Government scientists said it’s a relatively easy vaccine to make and therefore shouldn’t cost a lot to produce,” he added.

Mr Sercombe, who lost 40% of lambs within his early lambing pedigree flock of Charollais to the disease earlier this year, said despite the cost he was already in the process of vaccinating 150 pedigree ewes.

“We’ve had to pay [for the vaccine] because it’s the only one available and we want to protect our sheep this year,” he explained.

However, other farmers are reluctant to stump up the cash.

Oxfordshire sheep producer Tony Good, who lost 400 lambs and 30 ewes to SBV virus, said it would cost him about £6,000 to vaccinate his flock of 2,000 early-lambing ewes.

“It’s very expensive,” he said. “As a consequence we have blood tested 20 ewes this week to see if they’re immune.

“We are keeping an open mind until we get the results back. If any number of the ewes that have been blood tested are not immune we will have to take the decision [to vaccinate].”

Tests are ongoing and it is not yet clear whether or not the vaccine will need to be administered annually to safeguard protection.

Mr Sercombe said if this was the case if would be a “real sting” for livestock producers.

But vaccine manufacturer MSD defended the cost, emphasising that prices were set individually by veterinary practices.

MSD spokesman Ian Anderson said: ” We don’t recommend retail price, that’s down to the vet. There may be variation in pricing, but we’ve priced it to vets in line with other products we sell into the chain,” he explained.

He added even though the vaccine had been fast-tracked by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the company still had to follow normal protocols.

“There’s a huge investment from our perspective to bring a vaccine to market so quickly. There’s rigorous scientific processing to go through, however fast they come, because the product has to be safe,” Mr Anderson said.

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