Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

Schmallenberg sees 100pc rise in past fortnight

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The number of farms infected with the Schmallenberg virus has doubled in the past fortnight to 54.

The escalation in outbreaks is mainly happening in dairy and beef herds as the calving season gets underway.

Cork-based vet Bill Cashman said he had confirmed eight outbreaks in dairy herds.

An Animal Health Ireland (AHI) meeting due to be held at Clonakilty Agricultural College last week was relocated to the Shinagh trial farm when a series of abortions in the college's dairy herd triggered suspicions of a Schmallenberg outbreak.

Kildalton College in Kilkenny also lost more than 12pc of their early lambs to the disease, according to farm manager, John Walsh.

IFA National Sheep Committee chairman James Murphy has also had firsthand experience of the virus, with approximately 5pc of his flock showing signs of infection.

"The losses were a little higher than normal, but if that's the extent of the impact of the disease then I can live with that," he said.

Mr Murphy said the worst affected farmers believed they would lose half of their lamb crop.

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"Farms in sheltered areas along rivers are much more prone to the disease," he said.

While British authorities have claimed that just 6pc of flocks suffered outbreaks, Mr Cashman said that this number only accounted for flocks with more than 25pc of ewes exhibiting signs of the disease.

"There is also evidence that the eggs laid by infected midges will also carry the disease, so the next generation of midges will also pose a threat," added Mr Cashman.


Mr Murphy added he was tempted to hold on to younger ewes in the hope that they would have immunity next year.

However, there is a lot of uncertainty among farmers as to the best approach, with some reports of British flocks being re-infected by the disease for a second time this year.

"We really need guidance from the Department (of Agriculture) on this issue now," said Mr Murphy.

Cork is the worst affected county with 21 cases so far, 80pc of which were in cattle herds.

Kilkenny and Wexford have 11 and 10 cases respectively. Together, these three counties account for over three quarters of all Schmallenberg outbreaks.

Carlow, Dublin, Tipperary, Waterford and Wicklow have also confirmed outbreaks.

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