Survey shows virus took its toll in North Devon
A SURVEY of almost 2,000 sheep and cattle by a North Devon veterinary practice has shown the Schmallenberg virus almost certainly passed through the majority of North Devon's cattle and sheep farms during the summer and autumn of 2012.
But vets are still trying to discover why there is been a substantial variation in the impact of the disease between herds and flocks.
The Torch Farm and Equine practice has been examining the effect and prevalence of SBV in 20 different cattle herds and in seven sheep flocks.
The vets and other practices in Devon, Dorset and Cornwall are trying to build up a comprehensive picture of the disease's impact in the South West and gather information to help advise farmers on appropriate control measures for the remainder of this year.
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Antibodies to the virus, which causes birth deformity and infertility as well as shrinking milk yields, have been found in 100 per cent of herds and flocks tested in the survey to date, and on average 80-90 per cent of animals tested within the sampled herds and flocks.
Vet Neil Blake, who sees many of the farms affected in North Devon said:
"The majority of herds and flocks had the virus pass through but the question as to why some had a more serious impact than others remains."
"During the study we have compared herds and flocks where Schmallenberg has had little obvious impact with others where we know it had a severe impact. The level of apparent exposure appears to be similar in both groups.
"It might be that those unfortunate enough to have experienced a greater impact were subject to other contributing factors or it was a result of the virus hitting at the worst time."
"Our advice would be that farmers consult with their vets and consider sampling their animals to assess the level of infection from last year and to consider, based upon those results, their risk and best means of control."