Expect deformed lambs and calves

You may recall warnings about schmallenberg virus (SBV). If you farm sheep or cattle you’ll certainly have SBV on your mind this year. This virus doesn’t infect humans but it can be devastating to lambs and calves, causing severe deformities.

Louise Gray at the Telegraph says that, as the lambing season approaches, most livestock in England and Wales is infected with SBV. You can see what’s happened by looking at this map. The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency tracked SBV through England and Wales. Olivia Midgley at Farmers Guardian says that SBV has reached Scotland. It has also been found in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland

This virus is spreading because it’s carried by midges. So when the wind is from the South or East, SBV may come your way. The virus is spreading also because animals are transported from farm to farm. That’s how it reached Northern Scotland two months ago, says Alison Mann at the Scottish Farmer.

What can be done? We can’t stop the wind blowing! Animals need to be moved so that farmers can breed good stock. It was a stud tup from Southern England that carried SBV to Northern Scotland.

We can hope for a vaccine. Vaccination has worked for another midge-borne disease, bluetongue virus, which caused great fear when it arrived in Britain but which is now officially gone from our islands. Alistair Driver at Farmers Guardian says that an SBV vaccine is likely soon to be approved. But vaccine approval will be too late for this year’s lamb crop. I think there’s a strong case for making SBV a notifiable disease, as bluetongue is notifiable.

Meanwhile, some of the lambs and calves delivered this winter and spring aren’t going to be viable. Pity the little dead creatures, mourn the money lost, and honour the farmers who take it on the chin. Not that you shrug off animals’ suffering, of course not. But some of the lambs and calves aren’t going to live.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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1 Response to Expect deformed lambs and calves

  1. Pingback: Update on the virus which deforms lambs, calves and fawns | Science on the Land

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