Scottish union warns on complacency on Schmallenberg

Schmallenberg virus (SBV) could still be a threat to Scottish farmers, the National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) has warned.

Scottish farmers should not be complacent about lower-than-expected levels of SBV activity across Scotland, the union has said. Veterinary surveillance has found new cases of the virus in Scotland, it has been claimed, and farmers need to work with vets on a strategy to minimise the impact on their livestock if they are exposed to it.

However, the recent availability of a vaccine, the union said, means it may be possible for sheep and cattle to be vaccinated before they become pregnant, which is when the virus is most detrimental to unborn animals. “Scottish farmers with early lambing flocks and autumn calving herds should be discussing with their vets whether vaccination could help protect their stock,” NFUS said.

NFUS president Nigel Miller said: “While vaccination comes at a cost, the losses generated by infection of animals while pregnant are stark. The costs associated with stillbirths or caesarean sections to remove deformed lambs or calves could soon mount up if a herd or flock becomes compromised at a crucial time in the breeding cycle.

“Animals can now be vaccinated ahead of breeding to provide protection during the vulnerable stage of early pregnancy and that may be an important tool for many livestock keepers in next few months.”