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Kendal vets lead battle against virus in lambs
A KENDAL veterinary practice is hoping to tackle the threat of the Schmallenberg Virus as part of a new group aimed at disease surveillance across the North West.
Mark Stott, a director at Farm Gate Vets, says he has seen the disease in newborn lambs on a handful of farms in south Cumbria and north Lancashire this year and hopes that by helping to set up Farm Vets Northwest, the outbreak can be controlled.
The group has been formed from 11 practices in Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire specialising in production animals.
Between them they have 110 vets, whose main aims is surveillance, with Schmallenberg one of the key areas of focus.
The virus is being spread by midges which can infect sheep, cattle and goats, but DEFRA is also recommending keepers of ‘exotic or wild ruminants’ such as alpacas, llamas and deer, to be vigilant.
The virus leads to abnormalities in newborn animals, alive or dead. Malformations seen to date include bent limbs, fixed joints and twisted neck or spine.
Mr Stott said: “We are starting to see some cases this year. It certainly is a worry because it’s unknown. “It is a case of ‘wait and see’ how much of an affect it may have.
“It is a timing issue because it may well be that those sheep that have lambed successfully up to now weren’t exposed to the midges in early pregnancy — that is when they are at their most vulnerable.
“With Farm Vets Northwest, we want to raise awareness. “Looking forward into the coming year there should be a vaccine available. We can try to control midge bites on stock and use insecticides.”
Positive tests for the Schmallenberg virus will be plotted on a map to show the extent of the incidence across the region, which will then be highlighted to livestock farmers in the area.
Vets will also collaborate on the very latest disease and vaccine information.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said: “I really welcome the news that farm vets throughout the North West have joined forces and are leading the surveillance work. Vets are in the front line with farmers and I’m sure this will make a massive difference.
“But I think it is vital the Government has a proper plan in place, from on-farm testing to rolling out a vaccination as soon as possible to ensure this does not become another agricultural crisis."
The vets are also keen to work together to fight other diseases such as BVD and TB.