Lambing problems highlight the need for Schmallenberg vaccine, says NFU

Lambing problems highlight the need for Schmallenberg vaccine, says NFU

Every effort must be made to ensure a vaccine is available later this year to help combat the spread of the deadly Schmallenberg virus (SBV), said the NFU.

The call comes as many farms with early lambing flocks across the country have experienced higher than normal losses with still births and deformities ranging from fused limbs to twisted necks.

The disease has spread across England and Wales to the Scottish border region and has now been confirmed on more than 1,000 UK farms. Although it is still being recognised by Defra and the European Commission as ‘low impact’ on a national scale, the cost for individual businesses can run into thousands of pounds. It comes at the same time as lamb prices have hit their lowest level for three years and livestock producers are facing rising production costs due to the extreme weather in 2012.

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe, a sheep farmer in Leicestershire, has seen Schmallenberg in his own flock. He said concern was growing across the industry and that a vaccine must be made available to give farmers the ability to safeguard future lamb crops. “Any infection present on farm now will have taken place last year and there is nothing that can be done to alleviate issues at the moment. But it is important that a vaccine is made available this year to give our sheep farmers the choice of whether to vaccinate their flocks against this disease.

“The other issue to address is a lack of official data to see how things are developing. We are therefore working closely with EBLEX, AHVLA and other industry organisations on a lambing survey which will be released shortly and that I would urge sheep farmers to complete.”

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