Vaccine targets Schmallenberg virus

Schmallenberg virus can cause birth defects in cows and sheep Photo: ITV

The lambing season is drawing to a close, but not all have made it through the spring.

Many have succumbed to Schmallenberg virus which emerged in the Netherlands and Germany in 2011 and has been seen in cattle and sheep in the UK since early 2012.

Adult animals infected during pregnancies in the autumn by virus-carrying midges, thought to have blown across the Channel, have given birth to deformed or stillborn lambs and calves.

It has been identified on more than 1,700 farms across the country, including some Cumbria and Southern Scotland.

There is, however, hope in the form of a new vaccine and UK farmers are the first in the European Union to have access it.

Alan Dickinson is one of them. He welcomes the new drug but says he's not sure how many will buy it as it would be expensive to vaccinate entire flocks.

Alan Dickinson on his farm Credit: ITV

"It is a great thing to have as it was very worrying that we didn't have a vaccine for it and to know that it is there, that it can be used, will certainly put peoples mind at rest.

"But at the moment not many farms are affected and the cost would be a preventative thing."

– Alan Dickinson, Chairman, NFU Cumbria

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has licensed veterinary pharmaceutical company MSD Animal Health to provide the "Bovolis SBV" vaccine.

It will be possible to vaccinate sheep and cattle before most of them become pregnant. All the more important as it is during pregnancy when exposure to the virus can do the most damage.

Cows being vaccinated Credit: ITV

"Considering the virus was only isolated in Europe in mid 2011, we have worked very hard to develop the vaccine with the authorities as quickly as possible.

"The vaccine has been given a provisional market authorisation which means it can now be marketed and sold within the UK market."

– Ian Anderson, Veterinary Manager, MSD Animal Health