A GROUP of vets have joined forces to monitor the spread of the Schmallenberg virus is the North.
Vets from 11 practices in Cumbria and down into Lancashire and Yorkshire have teamed up to take a leading role in disease surveillance.
Collectively, the group which has 110 vets, will be known as Farm Vets Northwest.
Group member David Catlow said: “One of the catalysts to forming the group was our desire to collaborate across the region and take a leading role in disease surveillance on farms and, in turn, help our farmer clients control disease. We felt that by working collectively with the links and the geographic spread we have, we could be at the forefront, sharing knowledge and experiences and being able to alert our clients as quickly as possible about the spread of disease and how we can implement control strategies, including vaccination when it becomes available.”
The group is working with MSD Animal Health to carry out on farm tests on dairy cattle and sheep to look for incidences of Schmallenberg, which causes late abortions and birth defects in sheep and cattle.
The first project tested 50 milk samples from dairy herds, of which 39 were positive, seven negative and four inconclusive for Schmallenberg, indicating that a number of animals were carriers of the virus.
The group is planning a similar exercise testing blood samples from sheep.
MSD Animal Health’s veterinary adviser Ian Anderson said: “MSD Animal Health has developed a vaccine based on wild-type Schmallenberg virus that has been inactivated and contains an adjuvant that stimulates the immune response.
“In the studies to date, safety and efficacy has been demonstrated in cattle and sheep. MSD Animal Health is currently working closely with the regulatory authorities and cannot speculate as to when the vaccine will be available.”
Schmallenberg is now in its second year in the UK after arriving, it is believed, with a plume of midges blown across the Channel from mainland Europe.
However, there is concern that Government spending cuts mean that Defra will not carry out its own surveillance into the spread of the disease.
The Farm Vets Northwest group is plotting all the positive results found in the region on a map to show how far the virus has spread. Members are also planning to work together to target other livestock disease such as BVD and TB.
And the group is also aiming to encourage newly qualified vets working locally to remain in the area.