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Schmallenberg (SBV) update
Farmers in Scotland were yesterday being reminded to maintain good biosecurity, source stock sensibly and seek veterinary advice if they have concerns about the health of their stock.
The reminder follows results from surveillance from across GB (including Scotland) that indicates evidence of exposure to Schmallenberg virus in areas where it hasn’t previously been detected.
While no acute cases have been recorded in Scotland, SAC Consulting Veterinary Services report that some animals on 3 farms have tested positive for Schmallenberg antibodies following testing after moving into Scotland from areas of England and Wales. This suggests these animals have been previously exposed to the disease.
Animal movements are the most likely source of any incursion of SBV into Scotland. As there is no available vaccine, the Scottish Government - in partnership with Moredun, SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), Biobest and key Scottish industry organisations - is encouraging producers in Scotland to consider, with their veterinary practitioners, the advisability of testing introduced breeding stock for evidence of SBV antibody.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
"Whilst Schmallenberg virus may be a relatively low impact disease, infection during particular stages of pregnancy could leads to problems around lambing or calving time.
"Farmers should therefore exercise caution when importing animals into their farm and discuss with their vet any appropriate use of commercially available testing for Schmallenberg, and indeed screening for any other livestock disease."
NSA Scotland’s Development Officer, George Milne, said:
"The recent announcement about the new cases does raise concerns as to how widely spread the disease may be. It Is particularly worrying as to what may have occurred over the last two months during the major sheep trading period. Those who have purchased sheep from affected areas may wish to discuss with their vet the benefit of testing as an aid to future management."
NFU Scotland's Animal Health Policy Manager Penny Johnston said:
"Given these developments, Scottish livestock producers importing stock from SBV-risk areas are encouraged to take up the NFUS/Scottish Government/SRUC’s/Biobest scheme to screen animals for the virus. In conjunction with their vet, farmers should arrange to have a number of their animals tested 14 to 21 days after arrival. Samples should be sent to SRUC or Biobest with a completed submission form detailing that the test is part of the NFUS post-movement testing scheme and including the animals’ breed, source and identification number.
"Anyone concerned about virus and their traditional timing for putting out bulls and rams, should talk the issue through with their vet."
Kim Willoughby of the Virus Surveillance Unit at Moredun said:
"The widespread detection of SBV in England and Wales and the recent detection of imported sheep with antibodies to SBV in Scotland underlines the importance of vigilance for this disease. Vets and farmers in Scotland should consider testing for this virus where animals have signs suggestive of disease, including milk drop in dairy cattle and deformity of calves and lambs."
"Many uncertainties remain about how this virus will behave long term and the importance of the vector and the influence of weather conditions are likely to be key in whether or not the virus becomes established in Scotland."
Scottish Government representatives today met with key industry stakeholders, including representatives of the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, National Sheep Association, National Beef Association, the Scottish Beef Cattle Association and the research institutes to discuss SBV.
SBV was first identified in 2011 and has been detected in a number of countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France as well as in the south of England. SBV is not notifiable in the UK and no restrictions are placed on infected premises.
SBV is spread by insect vectors, including midges.
Moredun and SRUC are recommending the testing of animals from affected areas between 14 and 21 days after their import, if practicable. Positive results could suggest a risk of the introduction of SBV to a flock or herd. If the virus is active on the unit then delaying mating until a high proportion of the flock or herd is immune may be advisable. If imported animals test negative, animals are almost certainly not exposed and there is no need to test the flock. Testing of animals pre-purchase should also be considered.
Antibody ELISA testing is offered by SRUC and Biobest. With the NFUS subsidy the first few hundred tests will be screened by SRUC and Biobest free of charge.
Suspect cases are investigated by SRUC and Moredun through routine surveillance procedures. Biobest also offer milk testing. Dairy herds can be screened for exposure to Schmallenberg using bulk, pooled or individual milk samples.
Livestock keepers should contact their private vet or local SAC Consulting Veterinary Surveillance Laboratory if they encounter cases of ruminant malformations in foetuses, stillbirths or neonates or neonates that show signs of nervous disease and in either case suspect a SBV infection. Experience from affected premises has shown that in some cases there is an increased risk in assisted births, including caesarean sections, may be required.
Farmers planning to purchase pregnant ruminant animals should enquire about the health history of the herds or flocks of origin. Preliminary outbreak assessments providing the latest information on current affected areas can be found under at http://www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/a-z/schmallenberg-virus/
Information issued by SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College) and Moredun outlining the possible impacts of the disease and best practice guidelines for those sourcing stock from risk areas can be found at http://www.sruc.ac.uk/ and http://www.moredun.org.uk/sbv.