Vaccination is happening against a virus which deforms lambs and calves

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is a Government agency here in Britain. It’s part of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Among other tasks, VMD approves new veterinary drugs and vaccines.

Farming eyes have been on VMD since terrible deformities started to appear, afflicting lambs and kids in some flocks, calves and fawns in some herds. The deformities are caused by an emerging disease – that is, a disease new to us – due to a virus transmitted by midges. The virus is called Schmallenberg virus (SBV). You can see what DEFRA says about SBV, what the European Food Standards Agency says about it, and follow my ‘Schmallenberg virus’ tag for more info and links.

I told you that a vaccine was coming against SBV. Now it’s here. Within the last few weeks, UK farmers have become the first in the European Union to have the option of vaccinating animals against SBV.

Johann Tasker at Farmers Weekly told us that the vaccine was arriving in Britain. Nicholas Robinson at Meat Trades Journal told us that the vaccine would become available during the summer. That’s the right time to vaccinate spring-lambing and spring-calving animals, before they get pregnant naturally or by artificial insemination. It’s while they’re pregnant that an infected midge bite can let the virus into the animals, starting a fresh round of deformity in the foetuses.

It’s great that the vaccine has become available. Using it isn’t compulsory, so farmers face a choice. Do you spend money on vaccinating? Do you take the chance that midges on your farm won’t bring SBV to your livestock? Here’s a film from my fellow bloggers at Redhill Charollais about using the SBV vaccine.

Farmers Weekly says, don’t mess about. Vaccinate your animals.


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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6 Responses to Vaccination is happening against a virus which deforms lambs and calves

  1. It is already the middle of June. Is it still spring? Isn’t it too late, this year? Here, in North Florida, USA, the spring babies have long been born, already yet, though all the variations on biting flies from no-see-ums, midges, skeets on up to almost 2″ horse flies are still about. DH (Dear Husband) raises White Tail Deer, and other critters). One of my Daughters-in-Law is a veterinarian. Irrelevant, perhaps, but interesting. She does NOT like for me to bounce ideas off of her. I thought this emerging fetal disease was affecting only sheep, and that it was 100% fatal for affected infected lambs. Is it now all hooved animals, now? What about horses, swine? Camilids? I know you are incredibly busy and I haven’t followed all of the links you provided yet. But I shall. Thanks.

    • argylesock says:

      Just ruminants, so far as I know. Not horses or pigs which are monogastric like us. I don’t claim to know much about camelids but their digestive system is neither monogastric nor ruminant. Our fellow blogger Abdul Raziq Kakar is an expert on dryland pastoralism, including camels

      The reason for vaccinating spring-lambing or spring-calving animals in summer is that they’re pregnant in summer. I’m not aware of any science, yet, about how immunity against SBV works. But I’d predict that once a ewe or cow has been infected, she’s no longer susceptible to SBV.

      • Digestion? I forgot about goats. Deer incubation must be much shorter. I wonder if the exposed offspring of vacccinated mother’s is afforded immunity? Sort of like the exposure providing a booster shot. I remember reading some about SBV and not paying much attention thinking it was only sheep, and European sheep at that. It was all a mystery disease when I read the periodical. Thank you so much for the heads up.

        • argylesock says:

          I don’t know how much is known about SBV, so far, because it’s an emerging disease. But evidently, somebody has done good science leading to the vaccine. How that works in the field, and in the economy, will be interesting.

  2. There is vaccine against West Nile, yet every year horses go down with this encephalitis, because vaccination is voluntary.

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