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Confirmed cases of Schmallenberg rising
sheep and lamb
"It is important that we ascertain the true levels of the virus, because this will help determine whether there is a need to vaccinate later in the year."
Farmers urged to submit lambs for post-mortem
 
Confirmed cases of Schmallenberg virus are rising, prompting a call for farmers to submit lambs for post-mortem examination.

SBV was found in lambs in the south west of England last month, and subsequently in North Yorkshire and on four holdings in the North East of England.

Schmallenberg can infect pregnant sheep and cattle, causing severe malformations of foetuses in the womb. It does not spread from animal to animal but, like bluetongue, is transmitted by infected midges.

The virus emerged across Western Europe in November 2011 and by July 2013, calves, lambs and kids with severe skeletal deformities had been reported in at least 24 European countries.

Ben Strugnell, of Farm Post Mortem Ltd, commented: The possible re-emergence of Schmallenberg was predicted following a study in autumn 2015 which tested young flock replacement sheep in the south of England, the results of which suggested that levels of immunity may have dropped.”

Mr Strugnell urged producers to submit lambs with skeletal deformities for post-mortem examination so that the cause can be confirmed. “The best advice for producers is to contact their vet, who can provide information on the best way to arrange a post-mortem,” he continued.

“Blood sampling of ewes which have affected lambs is also useful. Younger sheep may be most at risk as older ones may be immune from previous exposure to the virus.”

There is currently no available vaccine for Schmallenberg and Mr Strugnell said it is already too late to vaccinate sheep that are due to lamb in spring.

“However, it is important that we ascertain the true levels of the virus, because this will help determine whether there is a need to vaccinate later in the year,” he concluded.

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Huge spike in ‘designer’ dogs going into rescue

News Story 1
 The RSPCA has reported a huge spike in the number of ‘designer’ dogs arriving into its care.

Figures published by the charity show there has been a 517 per cent increase in the number of French bulldogs arriving into its kennels. During that time, the charity has also seen an increase in dachshunds, chihuahuas, and crossbreeds.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Hens said: “We know that the breeds of dog coming into our care often reflect the trends in dog ownership in the wider world and, at the moment, it doesn’t get more trendy than ‘designer’ dogs like French bulldogs and Dachshunds."

 

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New shearing guidance for farmers and contractors

Industry bodies have produced guidance for farmers and contractors on how to handle sheep during shearing to avoid stress and injury.

The guidance includes every step - from the presentation of sheep and facilities for shearing, through to using a contractor and shearers - and aims to ensure shearing is carried out safely, efficiently and with high standards of animal welfare.

Guide co-author Jill Hewitt from the NAAC said: “Shearing is a professional job that takes significant skill. Shearers take their responsibility to protect animal welfare very seriously and it will be a positive step to remind everyone of the importance of working together.’