Devon farmer's financial worry over Schmallenberg virus

A Devon farmer says he has lost more than £45,000 since the outbreak of Schmallenberg virus.

David Horton from Dunsburgh Farm, near Plymouth, said many lambs had been born with physical and mental abnormalities.

The virus was first detected in the region in March 2012 and can lead to livestock having stillborn or deformed offspring.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) said Devon had been the hardest hit county.

'Disastrous lambing'

The agency said voluntary samples from farmers showed there had been 126 cases in Devon - 98 in cattle and 28 in sheep - while in Cornwall there had been 60 incidents in cattle and eight in sheep.

Mr Horton said: "Some of the early lambing flocks have had disastrous lambing because of it.

"It does seem to be affecting our cattle as well and we are seeing them with extremely poor fertility, dramatic milk loss and we're seeing calves that are physically disabled and also appear mentally disabled.

"The effect it's having on production is not good."

Schmallenberg is still considered a low-impact disease and farmers are not required to notify authorities about it, although they are advised to do so.

Ian Johnson, of the National Farmers Union, said: "It is still low impact because there haven't been many reported outbreaks and it's catch-22 because, if there aren't many reported outbreaks, then the people who make vaccines might not get on it with it.

"Far worse is that it's affecting cattle which have longer gestation so we're still on the edge of the cliff.

"What it will do for dairy farmers is affect their replacements and dairy business will be hard hit."

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