The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) has predicted that the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) will spread to uninfected areas of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland during 2013.
The AFBI reported that the livestock virus was “very likely” to hit the island’s uninfected herds and flock, when forecasting the impact of SBV for the year ahead.
So far, only one confirmed case of SBV has been detected in Northern Ireland – a cattle herd in County Down last October. In the Republic of Ireland, infections have been reported in the counties of Cork, Wexford, Kilkenny, Wicklow and Waterford.
The institute explained that midges, which transmit SBV, are active between April and December. As a result, it says the virus is going to spread over the coming months.
“It was expected that, once the virus arrived on the island, it would spread rapidly during those times of the year when biting midges are active.
“Preliminary data presented by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the Republic of Ireland suggests that the greatest risk of exposure of flock and herds to this virus was in the south-east of the island.”
The institute warned that the highest level of problems would be expected in herds that have synchronised breeding programmes, as well as where animals were infected during pregnancy last year.
The critical period for SVB exposure for cattle is during 40-120 day’s gestation, and for sheep is during 20 to 80 day’s gestation.
Commenting that there should be little impact in non-pregnant livestock, the institute confirmed those animals should have developed a strong immunity if already exposed to SBV.
“We would anticipate that vaccination is likely to be an effective tool in the control of SBV infection, although there is likely to be some delay before a Schmallenberg vaccine is licensed and becomes commercially available,” the AFBI added.
Those farmers that suspect a SBV infection in their livestock should discuss it with their vet and submit samples to the AFBI labs at Omagh and Stormont in Northern Ireland.