Schmallenberg virus: Devon and Cornwall farmers want more information

Lambs The lambing season runs from December to May

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Farmers in Devon and Cornwall say they want more information about a disease that can lead to lambs and calves being stillborn or deformed.

The Schmallenberg virus has been confirmed at 147 farms - 58 in Cornwall and 89 in Devon - according to figures from the environment ministry Defra.

Some farmers have criticised a lack of government information about the disease, first identified in 2012.

Defra said it was working to develop its knowledge of the disease.

Fentogollan Farm, near Truro in Cornwall, has about 1,500 sheep. It has sent off samples for virus tests, which have so far been negative.

But, despite no positive test results, staff said they were still concerned.

Livestock manager Jeremy Hosking said farmers felt "completely in the dark."

He said: "The one things that concerns us is a lack of information.

"We were talking about this disease last year, and we know no more about it now.

"We feel that sure that there is a little more known about it now that we should be getting information on."

'45% of lambs hit'

Ian Johnson, South West spokesman for the National Farmers' Union, said the union was aware that farmers were concerned.

He added that he had heard anecdotal evidence of "up to 45% of lambs on some farms" being affected in the lambing season so far, which runs from December to May.

It was believed the virus was carried to England by midges blown across the Channel and was then spread by native midges during the summer, government scientists said.

The first sign is often when livestock give birth to deformed or dead young - which can be months after the infection has occurred.

Defra said it was "closely tracking the disease and will continue to work with partners across Europe and the UK to develop our knowledge of the disease".

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