Schmallenberg survey launched for lambing season

Vet students on lambing placements are invited to record information about deformed lambs for a survey of Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in sheep flocks this year.

The UK is experiencing a phase of increased risk of SBV, according to Ruminant Health and Welfare (RH&W). The aim of the survey is to find out whether SBV impacts the 2022 lambing season.

“SBV is a relatively new disease to the UK, first identified in 2012-13, and is transmitted by biting midges,” said RH&W chairman Nigel Miller. “Often the first physical impact of SBV in sheep is lamb deformities at birth. We believe the knowledge from the survey can increase understanding of both the epidemiology and potential management of this virus.”

See also: How to get the best from your vet student at lambing

Vet students are asked to capture data on deformities in lambs during the lambing season to help assess the spread of SBV nationally and at a county level.

They should submit their findings as soon as possible after the end of their placement. The survey closes on 16 May and findings will be shared in early summer.

Virus spread

SBV affects cattle and goats as well as sheep. It has been detected in other ruminants including deer, but disease has not been reported in these animals.

Individual herd or flock losses caused by SBV vary. On average, SBV-affected flocks report a 3% increase in lamb mortality, but some flocks experience losses of 50-60%, according to the National Animal Disease Information Service (Nadis).

The disease follows a pattern of years with large outbreaks followed by years with little circulation. The risk is higher in warm years with high midge numbers and in years where previous exposure to the virus is low.

Survey partners

RH&W is working with members including the National Sheep Association, Sheep Veterinary Society and AHDB to find out the extent of the spread of SBV during the lambing season. The online survey also has the support of a number of UK vet colleges.

Participating vet students can get information for the survey through their college or email

Free tests

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) is again offering free testing of samples from lambs, kids and calves born with curved joints and/or spinal defects. For more information speak to your vet or visit APHA Vet Gateway.