Jersey sheep farmers 'avoid breeding sheep' after virus

A number of farmers in Jersey have avoided breeding sheep following cases of Schmallenberg virus in the island.

Last year at least four Jersey flocks were affected by the virus, which causes severe birth defects in lambs.

Diane Best, a sheep farmer in St Martin, said: "I lost six ewes so it was financially pretty disastrous."

Linda Lowseck, States of Jersey vet, said: "Animals who have previously had Schmallenberg will have some immunity, that's little comfort to some farmers."

The Schmallenberg virus is carried by insects, and affects sheep and cattle.

A vaccine for the illness is in development, but it will be months before it is ready to use.

Ms Best said: "It was confirmed some way through the lambing season that I did have Schmallenberg [at the farm].

"I'd lost over a third of my lambs because they were stillborn - one was actually deformed."

She added: "No-one really knows which animals are already immune from the midge bites over the winter.

"So I just lost my nerve [to continue breeding animals] really."

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