Vet watch: Lambing time prompts talks over Schmallenberg virus

Alistair Moir, Minster Vet Practice, York

• Lambing time is here and talk on farm has frequently steered towards Schmallenberg virus and its effect on lamb numbers.

Our hands are tied when trying to actively do anything about Schmallenberg, but more can be done to increase lamb numbers by focussing on common problems that cause significant lamb losses every year.

About one million lambs are lost every year to hypothermia. Joint ill, Navel ill and Watery Mouth are regularly seen at the practice. Lamb losses from these conditions will dwarf those from Schmallenberg. Strict hygiene in the lambing area, colostrum, navel dipping, and warming boxes are still key to a successful lambing.

Rob Smith, Farm First Veterinary Services, Abergavenny

• Commonly when there is a disease outbreak in young calves or lambs, we nearly always find there is inadequate colostrum intake.

As spring progresses, with lambs and calves hitting the ground with increasing frequency, this becomes more important.

Remember the Four Q’s: Quantity, Quality, Quickly and Quietly. Calves and lambs need 30-50 ml/kg every six hours during the first 24 hours of life with their first dose within six hours of birth. Calves may need a much larger volume for their first feed (up to four litres).

Colostrum should be of high quality and free from contamination such as faeces. Feeders should be cleaned and disinfected between feeds to minimise disease spread.

Ian Gill, Thrums Veterinary Group, Kirriemuir

• As an east coast practice, Liver fluke is a relatively new disease to our farmers. Ten years ago it was not recognised, but now over 40 clients are treating for the disease.

One late autumn treatment usually kept disease under control, but this season we have seen deaths in ewes that received triclabendazole pre-tupping. Deaths occurred after scanning and post mortem revealed ruptured livers. This flock had to repeat treat, which stopped deaths, but later fluke egg counts showed the problem was not completely controlled.

This reminds us climate change can result in drastic changes in parasite challenge. Surveillance of fluke egg counts and abattoir reports are invaluable at forecasting changing threats and avoiding heavy losses.

Andrew Cooke, Rutland Vet Centre, Rutland

• A new word has entered everyone’s consciousness recently (including our small animal client’s): Schmallenberg.

There is a frustrating lack of information to give any sound advice yet. Within our practice, there seems to be about a 5% prevalence. Most cases are in sheep, but we have seen two in calves. There have been a variety of reactions from farmers – from near-panic to a stoical, “Doubt it’ll be any worse than a bit of enzo.”

At the moment it seems we have to ride the storm and see what can be done for next year; of course, this heavily relies on any suspicious cases being reported to your vet.

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