First Evidence of Schmallenberg Virus Circulation in Scotland.

Farmers have been urged to remain vigilant after the first evidence emerged that Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) was circulating in Scotland in 2012.

Eight cows in a dairy herd at the Barony campus of Scotland’s Rural College in Dumfries and Galloway have tested positive for SBV antibodies, indicating exposure to the virus in 2012, although  at a low prevalence. No deformed calves have yet been born to the 160-strong herd on the farm.

The animals were homebred and no animals had been added to the herd from outside Scotland.

The virus – which can cause abortions and birth defects in animals – was first detected in Southern England in January 2012. Although a small number of animals that had recently moved into Scotland have previously tested positive for SBV antibodies, this is the first evidence that suggests exposure to infected midges in Scotland.

“Since Schmallenberg was first detected in the south of England we have watched it spread slowly northwards. Confirmation of its arrival in Scotland is, therefore, no surprise but is nonetheless disappointing and undoubtedly a headache which farmers could do without at the moment,” said Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead.

“Following that confirmation, farmers should continue to exercise vigilance, particularly when moving animals onto their farm and should consider testing breeding stock for the SBV antibody.”

Lochead warned that, “Current evidence from surveillance carried out across Europe suggests that infection with Schmallenberg virus has a relatively low impact, but we know that it can cause difficulties when cows or ewes are infected in the early stages of pregnancy.”

Brian Hosie, Manager of SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, said, “Any farmers who encounter foetal abnormalities, stillbirths or newborns showing signs of nervous disease should contact their vet, or local SAC Consulting: Veterinary Services Disease Surveillance Centre (DSC).

“Do not assume these are cases of Schmallenberg virus infection as other diseases can cause birth defects in lambs and calves and it is important to know which you are dealing with.”

Biobest and SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, part of SRUC, (in conjunction with NFU Scotland) are about to begin a Schmallenberg surveillance scheme in Scotland. They are identifying dairy farms that would be willing to take part in the testing of bulk milk to help flag up any spread of the virus across the country.

Colin Mason, Manager of SAC Consulting Veterinary Services DSC at Dumfries, said, “These new results arose from testing we chose to do as part of other routine sampling at Barony. While the results were unexpected they will now help us plan our breeding programme and consider vaccination when it becomes available later this year. That’s exactly what we hope any findings of the proposed screening programme will help others with.”


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