Vigilance Urged as Schmallenberg Virus Shifts North to put Scotland at Risk

Scottish livestock producers are on high alert after Defra surveillance for Schmallenberg virus (SBV) has revealed its presence in the north of England.

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.

DEFRA reported this week that positive samples have now been found on farms in North Yorkshire and Northumberland. There is currently no data for Scotland but the reality is the southern regions of Scotland are now at risk from SBV.

NFU Scotland has provided funding to allow those importing stock from SBV risk areas to test for the virus.

NFU Scotland President, Nigel Miller said:

“Those farms in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway planning on putting rams or bulls out in the coming weeks should consider the risk of SBV and seek advice from their vet on the possible benefits of delaying until later in the year.  Lower temperatures reduce midge and virus activity and present a low transmission window.

“In the meantime, keepers should remain vigilant to any ill health within their herd or flock and test where SBV might be considered as a possible diagnosis.

“Farms carrying animals bought in from affected areas in England and Wales are advised to consider testing those animals through the NFUS testing scheme. Samples taken by their vet can be sent to SAC or Biobest where NFUS will help subsidise the cost of the laboratory testing.”

Notes to editors

  • 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.
  • Where results suggest a risk from the introduction of SBV then it may be advisable for herds/flocks to consider delaying mating until a high proportion of the flock/herd is likely to have developed immunity. Allowing the flock/herd to be exposed to the disease, and develop immunity in this way, will minimise the risk of active infection during early pregnancy and avoid the incidence of malformed offspring or stillbirths.
  • Keepers following this advice and testing animals are strongly advised to report positive results to Animal Health so anonymous data can be shared through regional incidence mapping to inform the wider community of any developing risk. This wider information can inform all keepers of any approaching risk that may influence their decisions about mating timing.
  • NFUS recognised the important role that this post movement test information could play in terms of surveillance for Scotland and has teamed up with SAC and Moredun. NFUS has and provided funding to cover some of the cost of the lab fees for a number of samples from any farm wishing to follow the SAC/Moredun guidance. NFUS will pay the cost of the serological test for up to four samples from any one farm.
  • NFUS funding is restricted to paying for a limited number of 400 tests overall and payments will be available on a first come basis.
  • 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.
  • Results will be forwarded to NFU Scotland for use in surveillance mapping.  NFU Scotland will be charged directly for the cost of the first four tests. Any additional samples over the quota will be charged to the submitting vet at the list price of £6.20 (+VAT) per sample or £5.00 (+VAT) for groups of 10 or more samples.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 116/12

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