February 2021 Newsletter

Published by Alistair on

Lambing seems to be progressing reasonably well. We have seen a few suspect cases of Schmallenberg disease. You may well remember when we first had an outbreak in the UK in 2012/2013 after the virus first being described in Germany in 2011. In the initial UK outbreak the virus likely arrived in the UK with windblown midges in south eastern counties and then spread inland and north. At the end of 2013 the APHA had confirmed virus infection on 656 holdings; subsequent serology testing showed all areas of the UK below the Scottish borders had been exposed. Individual herd or flock losses due to Schmallenberg vary but on average affected flocks report an extra 3% lamb mortality than those flocks not affected. The disease incidence in subsequent years has depended on exposure to infected midges, some years it is high and some years not. If a number of years pass with little exposure, immunity to the virus drops in the national flock/herd and we can see a resurgence in cases when infected midges arrive as in 2016/17. It is expected that a similar spike in cases could occur this year. 

Adult sheep and goats generally do not show signs of clinical disease; however acute clinical disease in adult cattle presents as fever, reduced milk yield, inappetence, loss of body condition and, diarrhoea lasting a few days. The biggest problem with the virus is however that it crosses the placenta to affect the growing foetus in pregnant animals. The most susceptible stages of pregnancy for foetal deformities are days 62-180 in cattle and 25-50 in sheep (older foetuses can clear the virus themselves). We therefore tend to see problems with Early lambing flocks and early spring calvings as the stage of pregnancy tends to coincide with high midge numbers. 

In new-born animals and foetal sheep, goats and cattle, the disease is associated with animals born alive or dead at term or aborted following infection of the dam. Malformations observed include bent limbs and fixed joints, which may be all limbs and spine or only some limbs or joints, brain deformities and damage to the spinal cord. Persistent flexion/fusion of the joints is a very common birth defect with Schmallenberg virus. Some animals are born with a normal appearance but have nervous signs such as a blindness, incoordination, an inability to suck, and sometimes seizures. The foetal deformities vary depending on when infection occurred during pregnancy. In sheep there may be only one lamb out of a multiple birth affected with the others normal. 

If you suspect you have cases, there is some free testing available from APHA. Please get in contact with us so we can take the appropriate samples. If you are struggling to lamb a ewe or calve a cow please consider the possibility of malformations before doing any damage. 

If you are looking for an injectable trace element for cattle this spring then it is certainly worth considering Multimin. It contains Copper, Selenium, Zinc and Manganese. This is a cost-effective solution for all cattle classes. In adults a treatment 30 days pre-calving and 35 days post calving has been shown to reduce mastitis by 22% and ‘Whites’ by 16%. Injecting at the time of vaccination has also been shown to boost immunity. In Beef cows, it has been proven to tighten up the calving period with improved conception rates. In comparison to boluses, this is an easy, cost effective alternative at less than £4.00 per cow dose. 

I am pleased to report that the supply of IBR vaccine has improved, as has Ubrostar Red. We still have a number of long-term supply issues so if you receive a different product to what you expected we apologise. Please double check withdrawal periods as some alternatives are slightly different. 

Don’t forget, we now have the option to pay your bill by Direct Debit, if you would like to do this then please get in touch. 

Categories: News