West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Farmers urged over Schmallenberg virus

Published: 1 March, 2012

West Tyrone Sinn Fein councillor Peter Kelly has urged farmers to be on alert for a new disease that can ravage sheep flocks. Schmallenberg virus first appeared on the European continent but has now spread to farms in England. To date there is no known cure or vaccine. Speaking Councillor Kelly said: "I would urge farmers to be on alert over the Schmallenberg virus. The disease affects cattle and goats; however sheep are at most risk. It can cause birth defects and stillborns. It appears that mortality is highest amongst newborn lambs. Given that this time of the year is lambing season I would urge particularly sheep farmers to be on alert. The disease is spread by biting midges. "Whilst the disease isn't currently present on the island of Ireland I would still urge farmers to err on the side of caution. The consequences would be far reaching if such a disease was to come to Ireland. Not only would there be a risk to livestock but there would also be financial implications for farmers. The minister, Michelle O'Neill has responded by increasing it DARD surveillance programme. "We encourage farmers to report any stillbirth, malformation or nervous disease in new-born animals or foetuses to their vet," said a department spokesman.