Farmers meet scientists tackling spread of Schmallenberg

FARMERS’ leaders have met research scientists tackling the spread of the Schmallenberg virus.

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers’ Union and the newly-elected vice-president Adam Quinney toured the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) at Pirbright, Surrey, where �100m is being spent on development of the site.

Prof Peter Mertens, IAH’s head of vector-borne diseases, and entomologist Dr Simon Carpenter explained the work being carried out.

The director, Prof John Fazakerley, said that research was looking at how virus was replicated within midges in order to understand the insects’ ability to pass on virus in differing climatic conditions.

Culicoides midges were considered to be the main vector transmitting SBV to cattle and sheep, but mosquitoes were also being studied by IAH to ascertain their possible role in virus transmission.

Mr Kendall said: “It is fair to say that agricultural R&D has suffered in recent decades and this work highlights the need for investment in disease surveillance as this research can help in delivering the solutions to the challenges we face.”

Mr Quinney emphasised how livestock farmers must continue to work with their vets to submit fresh samples from suspected cases for testing, to ensure an accurate picture of disease spread across the country.

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“One of the best ways of scientists understanding this new virus is by farmers reporting suspected cases so that farmers can have the best information available to plan business and animal husbandry strategies,” he said.

The virus SBV has been identified on 190 farms, including 14 positive cases in cattle and the rest in sheep, according to Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency. In Cambridgeshire, there has been a single case in a sheep flock, Norfolk has 15 flocks and four cases in cattle, Suffolk has a dozen in sheep and two in cattle. Lincolnshire has a single flock with SBV.

The majority of cases have been found in coastal counties – Hampshire 10 flocks; Kent 32 flocks, three cattle herds; East Sussex 30 flocks, one herd; West Sussex 29 flocks, three herds; Wiltshire five flocks, one cattle herd; Devon three flocks; Cornwall one flock.