Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Schmallenberg taking its toll on herds across the southeast

Mary Kinston

Schmallenberg virus has started to make an appearance on a number of dairy farms across the southeast. Farmers from Cork and Waterford confirmed that their herds had been hit by abortions, often at seven months gestation, and the odd deformed calf.

The disease appears to be transmitted by midges, and can be diagnosed by blood samples from cattle with suspicious symptoms and from dead or aborted foetuses by sampling the brain or spleen.

Immunity against the virus is potentially acquired naturally and it's possible that the seasonality of the infection cycle may not result in a problem in the following year.

The financial losses associated with the disease do not appear to be devastating. However, I have one farmer that did suffer a significant impact from the disease. A client farming in Clonakilty, Co Cork experienced abortions with four cows and two heifers in mid-January.

Foetuses were sent off to the lab, which confirmed Schmallenberg as the cause. Blood samples from the cows also confirmed the presence of antibodies.

Once calving started there were 17 cows with deformed calves; this usually resulted in serious calving problems. This was a challenging time for the farmer concerned as they all came in quick succession.

However, considering the total number of calved cows, the disease only had a detrimental effect on 12pc on the herd.

Many of the deformed calves had fused joints and so their legs were straight, while others had the classic neck lesions, with the head thrown back.

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This made calving very difficult as the head would be thrown back when a cow was sick to calve.

When the head was brought forward for calving it would simply fall away unless a head rope was secured. As a result, the vet was brought in on a number of occasions.

Unfortunately, there is some concern on the knock-on effects of the disease as it has resulted in retained placentas by a many of the cows that were affected, as a result of bad calvings and the need for assistance. Such cows are being washed out and treated with metricures.

Luckily the calving season for the farmer concerned presented with no other animal health issues.

Irish Independent