South Scotland

Study highlights spread of Schmallenberg virus in southern Scotland

Cows being milked Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tests were carried out on milk samples from dairy herds across the country

Vets have found signs that a disease which can cause stillbirths or birth defects in livestock spread across southern Scotland in autumn last year.

Schmallenberg virus (SBV) was confirmed in lambs in two flocks near the border with England last March.

Now results revealed by SAC Consulting veterinary services suggest there was "active transmission" later in 2017.

Farmers concerned about the risk of SBV have been advised to contact a vet in the first instance.

The virus was first detected in the UK in southern England in January 2012.

It is spread by midges and can cause brain and limb deformities in lambs and calves, but does not affect humans.

Cases in southern Scotland last year prompted monitoring of milk samples from 50 dairy herds across the country throughout the autumn for initial signs of infection.

Image copyright SAC Consulting veterinary services

Those results have now been revealed.

George Caldow, head of SAC Consulting veterinary services, said: "Each farm acts only as sentinel to SBV virus activity in the local area and circumstances vary from farm to farm with regard to virus spread and midge activity.

"The results of the study so far can therefore only act as a guide, but do suggest that there has been some active transmission of the SBV virus in Dumfries and Galloway in the autumn of 2017.

"This could potentially lead to the birth of deformed lambs and calves."

He said that in other parts of the country - particularly north of the central belt - they expected the disease risk to be "much lower".

Nigel Miller, SRUC board member and chairman of Livestock Health Scotland, said: "The SBV survey has highlighted the value of targeted surveillance and the strength of the SAC Consulting veterinary surveillance team linking up with milk producers across Scotland.

"The positive bulk milk samples from the south west not only provide an early warning of possible problems ahead, during the 2018 calving and lambing period, but also increase our understanding of the ability of the Schmallenberg virus and its vectors to persist and spread under Scottish climatic conditions."

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