Spectre of Schmallenberg hangs over farm

A sheep farmer has spoken out as the spectre of the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) hangs over his farm.

Although he was still awaiting official confirmation, a farmer in East Sussex said it was likely the virus had infected some of his flock of 280 ewes.

The farmer is part-way through lambing and said about 20 lambs had displayed symptoms of SBV.

“We have had deformed lambs being born – about 15 to 20 – and we have lambed about 180,” he told Farmers Weekly on Tuesday (31 January).

“When they are born, either the limbs or the neck is twisted. It’s so bad that the joints cannot be straightened out.

“Everything is perfect about them, except for their limbs or sometimes their necks.”

Two of the sheep had to be put down after they were born alive but could not stand up.

“We had a ewe that had triplets. The first was OK, but the last two we had to put down,” he explained.

The farmer started lambing on 18 January and since then there has been a steady amount of lambs being born with deformities.

“You will get two or three ewes lambing very much together and they (newborns) have all got it (SBV).

“But then you will have two or three days when you will see no disease and you think everything is back to normal when suddenly the disease comes back again with a vengeance.”

The farmer said he felt anxious at the birth of every lamb as each time you would “expect to see a deformed one come out”.

He added: “Previously, we would get the odd deformity, but you would not think anything more of it.

“But I have been a sheep farmer for 50 years and I have never seen anything like this. I feel devastated. The worry is that we don’t know much about the disease at the moment.”

The farmer said he always started lambing early – around mid-January to the beginning of February – “We have still got around 100 ewes to go and you worry how many more of them are going to get it,” he added.

The farmer said tests were being carried out on the dead animals to see if they had contracted SBV. He expected to receive the results from his vet today (1 February).

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