Eight dairy cows at the Barony campus of Scotland’s Rural College in Dumfries and Galloway have tested positive for the SBV antibodies, suggesting they were exposed to the virus last year. Although there have been a small number of previous cases of SBV among livestock that had recently moved to Scotland, this is the first time it has been found among animals born and bred in the region.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Since Schmallenberg was first detected in the south of England we have watched it spread slowly northwards. Confirmation of its arrival in Scotland is, therefore, no surprise, but is nonetheless disappointing and undoubtedly a headache that farmers could do without at the moment.
“Following that confirmation, farmers should continue to exercise vigilance, particularly when moving animals onto their farm, and should consider testing breeding stock for the SBV antibody.
“Current evidence from surveillance carried out across Europe suggests that infection with the Schmallenberg virus has a relatively low impact, but we know that it can cause difficulties when cows or ewes are infected in the early stages of pregnancy.”
Vets said no deformed calves had yet been born to the affected herd, although they urged any farmers who encounter foetal abnormalities, stillbirths or newborns showing signs of nervous disease to contact their vet, or local SAC Consulting: Veterinary Services Disease Surveillance Centre (DSC).
“Do not assume these are cases of Schmallenberg virus infection, as other diseases can cause birth defects in lambs and calves and it is important to know which you are dealing with,” said Brian Hosie, manager of SAC Consulting Veterinary Services.
SBV, which is spread by midges and causes birth defects in animals, was first identified in 2011 and spread to England in January 2012. It has also spread to Wales and Ireland, as well as a number of European countries.
In order to establish the spread of the disease in Scotland, Biobest and SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, part of SRUC (in conjunction with NFU Scotland) will shortly launch a Schmallenberg surveillance scheme.
“These new results arose from testing we chose to do as part of other routine sampling at Barony. While the results were unexpected, they will now help us plan our breeding programme and consider vaccination when it becomes available later this year. That’s exactly what we hope any findings of the proposed screening programme will help others with,” said Colin Mason, manager of SAC Consulting Veterinary Services DSC at Dumfries.