Monitoring by vets from Scotland’s Rural College indicates no cases of Schmallenberg virus infection (SBV) among Scotland’s calves and lambs so far this year.

The veterinary surveillance centres operated by SAC Consulting Veterinary Services had received some suspect cases up to May 1, but all have tested negative.

Colin Mason, manager of the veterinary centre in Dumfries, said last year cases of SBV were diagnosed in Dumfries and Galloway and Aberdeenshire.

“It was expected the disease might spread further during the second half of 2013 with deformed calves and lambs being born in the first six months of 2014,” he said.

“However, discussions with veterinary practitioners working in areas where confirmed cases were seen last year suggests no new cases so far this spring.”

SBV is related to a known virus called Akabane, which is spread by midges and classically causes brain defects and fetal malformations, particularly deformities of the limbs of newly born calves and lambs. The effects can be variable, with some farms suffering high lamb or calf mortality while other herds or flocks suffer few effects.

SBV was first detected near Schmallenberg in Germany in 2011, but spread into other parts of Europe and was first reported in the south of England early in 2012. The first confirmed case of the disease was identified on a Dumfriesshire farm in March 2013.

In addition to the information from SAC Consulting Veterinary Services and feedback from local veterinary practices, the results of NFU Scotland-funded tests of milk taken from dairy herd bulk tanks across Scotland during 2013 found no evidence of SBV exposure throughout the year.

Mr Mason said: “These three separate indicators would suggest there has been very limited spread of SBV throughout Scotland in 2013. It’s surprising, given the mild autumn and winter we experienced, but so far it seems the risk of SBV infection establishing throughout Scotland remains low.”

He said these indicators should be taken into account by vets when considering future SBV vaccination strategies, particularly ahead of the main beef suckler herd breeding season starting in June.

However, he added no one should assume the disease was no longer a threat, with a need for continued vigilance in case of outbreaks in Europe or other parts of the UK.

For further information, contact Mr Mason at colin.mason@sac.co.uk or telephone 01387 267260.

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