South Scotland

Schmallenberg virus: arrival in Scotland confirmed

A cow (generic)
Image caption The cases are the first to be confirmed in cattle bred and raised in Scotland

The first evidence of cases of the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) among livestock bred and raised in Scotland has been confirmed.

Eight cows on the Barony Campus of Scotland's Rural College in Dumfries and Galloway have tested positive for SBV antibodies.

It indicates exposure to the virus at some time last year.

No deformed calves have yet been born to the 160-strong herd on the farm north of Dumfries.

Last year a ram from Shropshire was confirmed with the virus after being transported to Orkney.

The animals involved in the latest incident were homebred and no animals had been added to the herd from outside Scotland.

The virus - which can cause abortions and birth defects in animals - was first detected in southern England in January 2012.

Although a small number of animals that had recently moved into Scotland have previously tested positive for SBV antibodies, this is the first evidence that suggests exposure to infected midges in Scotland.

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 which 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."

He said current evidence suggested infection with SBV had a "relatively low impact" but it was known it could cause problems in pregnant animals.

Brian Hosie, of SAC Consulting veterinary services, said any farmers encountering foetal abnormalities, stillbirths or newborns showing signs of nervous disease should contact their vet or SAC.

"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," he said.

A Schmallenberg surveillance scheme is about to start in Scotland.

Vaccination considered

They are identifying dairy farms that would be willing to take part in the testing of bulk milk to help flag up any spread of the virus across the country.

Colin Mason, of SAC Consulting in Dumfries, said: "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."

SBV causes fever, diarrhoea and loss of milk production in adult cattle, although the animals do recover.

The disease, first identified on German and Dutch farms, is not thought to pose a risk to humans.

It spread via midges throughout parts of Europe and southern England.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites