Farmers Alert as Livestock Virus Appears in Scotland

With the news that a tup brought in from Shropshire to the north of Scotland has tested positive for Schmallenberg virus (SBV), NFUS is advising livestock keepers to be vigilant for the disease.

SRUC will test contact animals although, given the recent cold weather, it is unlikely that the disease will have become established in the area.

It is just over a week since Defra reported positive SBV samples on farms in North Yorkshire and Northumberland, prompting NFUS to advise Scottish livestock producers importing stock from SBV-risk areas to take up NFUS, the Scottish Government and SRUC’s scheme to screen animals for the virus.

NFUS President, Borders livestock farmer and vet Nigel Miller said:

“NFUS received news today of a tup in the north of Scotland, which had been brought in from an SBV-risk area testing positive for the disease. Contact animals will be tested although it is hoped that the disease will not have spread. The weather has been cold recently, which inhibits insect vectors, such midges, and it is therefore likely that any potential spread will be blocked.

“The tup’s owner is to be commended for conducting the test and the event underlines the need for all livestock farmers importing stock from SBV-risk areas to test animals for the disease.

“There is no structured 'sentinel' surveillance in northern England or Scotland and it is therefore possible that the disease is already circulating in the south of Scotland. As midges and other vectors are likely to be active for at least another three weeks, we are advising all our members to speak to their vet if they are concerned about their livestock.

“Schmallenberg is still a relatively new disease and we are not yet familiar with all its attributes, however, modelling suggests that the disease could become established in Scotland south of the Clyde and Forth valleys. While the overall impact of the virus may be low in adult animals, it can impact severely on pregnant livestock, especially sheep, resulting in reduced foetal viability and deformities.

“A vaccine is being developed, which must undergo trials to demonstrate its safety. The vaccine may be available next year, which is when it would be most useful in Scotland. Luckily, it appears that livestock develop immunity to Schmallenberg relatively quickly. NFU Scotland is running workshops with the support of MSD Veterinarians to ensure members are aware of the latest developments and options for minimising the disease’s impacts.”

Brian Hosie, Group Manager SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, a Division of SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College, said:
“This shows the importance and value of post-movement testing and farmers should take advantage of the NFUS-supported testing scheme. I would also commend the farmer for his responsible approach in making the proper checks, we cannot afford to drop our guard against the threat of disease.” 


  • SBV, first identified as a new virus on German and Dutch farms, spread via midges throughout parts of Europe and southern England last year.  It causes relatively mild conditions in cattle and sheep but where infection takes place during the early stage of pregnancy, it can result in congenital disorders of lambs and calves, stillbirths and abortions.
  • Cases have been reported in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Denmark, Switzerland and the UK with the virus now being found in many parts of England and Wales.
  • NFU Scotland, in partnership with Scottish Government, Moredun and SAC, has put in place a scheme to help monitor the possible spread of Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) into Scotland. The scheme aims to use voluntary screening of animals moving to Scotland from areas known to be affected by SBV as an early alert system to potential risk from imported virus.
  • Moredun and SAC are advising keepers bringing animals in from high-risk areas to test those animals for SBV between 14 and 21 days after arrival. Positive results from these tests could suggest risk of SBV introduction into the herd or flock and follow up testing is recommended.
  • Any keeper wishing to take advantage of the scheme should arrange to have their animals tested 14-21 days after arrival.  Samples should be sent to SAC, through the farm vet, 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.


Contact Sarah Anderson on 0131 472 4108

Date Published:

News Article No.: 122/12

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