February 13, 2012
After the first case of the new Schmallenberg virus was confirmed in a cow in the UK, cattle farmers are being urged to be vigilant.
Until now, incidences of the disease, which causes abortions and birth abnormalities, have been confined to sheep in the UK.
But it has now been discovered in cattle at a farm in West Sussex, in addition to 32 cases in sheep in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, East Sussex and Hertfordshire.
The National Beef Association (NBA) said farmers across the country should now be on high alert, as experts do not know enough about the disease yet to assume only those counties close to the English Channel are in danger.
NBA chairman Hamish McBean said: "This disease is very serious, as if a cow loses her calf you've lost your whole year's production from that animal. And there is also the risk of losing the cow herself if her offspring is deformed enough to cause calving difficulties. The NBA recommends calling your vet if you are in any doubt - it is better to report something that turns out to nothing than to assume it's not Schmallenberg.
"Aside from this terrible disease, we strongly believe farmers should have any cases of abortion investigated anyway.
Even if it's not Schmallenberg, it might be neospora or some other production disease that should be tackled through a team approach with your vet anyway.
"If a cow drops a calf and you don't do anything about it, before you know it you might have lost three or four and have a serious problem - so get your vet involved. And consider sending those cast cows down the road afterwards, as no one can afford to have empty cows running about the place, regardless of how young or old they are, especially not with the strong market price for cull cows."