First signs of Schmallenberg virus found in Cumbria
Last updated at 12:55, Friday, 21 December 2012
Evidence of the Schmallenberg virus has been found in Cumbria for the first time.
Anti-bodies of the devastating disease were found in cattle on two holdings in the county during random testing by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA).
The AHVLA’s surveillance regime aimed to identify as early as possible when the virus spread to new areas. Evidence of the disease, whether anti-bodies, deformed foetuses in sheep or the acute disease in cattle, has now been found in almost every county of England and Wales. This testing regime has now been stopped by the Government and the responsibility and costs are likely to lie with farmers in the future.
Cumbrian farmer John Geldard is chairman of the National Sheep Association and has called for the Government to pay for future testing or at least help farmers with the cost.
“We want people to test whenever they can,” he said. “But the Government is not prepared to pay for testing. We want the Government to take some responsibility for this.
“The way things are unfolding, in another year, it will be necessary for farmers to use the vaccine.
“A vaccine is just being made available but it’s too late for this year. The National Sheep Association has been fairly cautious about the vaccine because it’s a new disease but we’ve been working closely with Defra.”
Originating on the continent, Schmallenberg is spread by midges and affects pregnant cattle and sheep, causing them to miscarry or give birth to deformed calves and lambs.
Reports from France suggest it maybe causing more problems in its second year than first anticipated possibly because livestock does not develop the level of immunity that was expected.
AHVLA and other Government agencies are only collecting data on the distance the disease has spread and do not gather any additional information once the disease has been confirmed in a county.
This means there is a lack of data on the level and scale of the problem, which is causing concern at the NSA.
AHVLA would be forced to collect the data if Schmallenberg was a notifiable disease, but such a move could severely hamper trade between the UK and other countries.
Mr Geldard added: “Everyone is very concerned about this disease. The financial impact it could have on farmers is significant.
“There are a lot of sheep that are not in as good a condition as they might be because of the weather and this could make them more susceptible.
“We’ve accepted that this disease could crop up anywhere. You can’t stop the midges.”
First published at 12:53, Friday, 21 December 2012
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk
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