No immediate solutions over Schmallenberg
Many farmers are wondering how they can protect their cows during pregnancy this year with the realisation that Schmallenberg is gradually becoming endemic here.
It appears that pregnancies are at their most vulnerable during 20-80 days gestation. Pregnant cows bitten by midge carriers during this period often lose the pregnancy or give birth to a calf with nerve damage. Cows bitten by the midge from days 80-150 are still vulnerable, with their calves exhibiting muscle deformities.
Midge repellents have been launched by some veterinary suppliers but veterinary experts have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of any of these products at keeping the midge at bay.
There is no hard data on when infected midges are most prevalent here. This is partly due to the fact that cases of Schmallenberg have been emerging on Irish farms since last September, along with the fact that there is no obligation on farmers to report the disease.
Fergal Morris of MSD Animal Health claims that a vaccine that is currently waiting on licencing in Britain could be available here by May.
However, the ideal time to administer the vaccine is prior to the breeding season, so any delay in this process will make the arrival of any vaccine too late to guarantee protection for spring-calving dairy herds.