First case of bovine Schmallenberg confirmed in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s first case of bovine foetal deformity due to Schmallenberg virus in 2018 has been confirmed in a stillborn calf from a Co. Fermanagh herd.

So far this year, the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI) has confirmed 29 cases of Schmallenberg virus in sheep in all six counties of Northern Ireland.

The Schmallenberg virus is not a notifiable disease in Northern Ireland. However, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) advises farmers to contact their vet if they suspect the presence of the disease in their cattle or sheep.

Farmers were urged to be on high alert after the disease seemed to be spreading north but, at this late stage, there is little they can do.

Symptoms of the virus include:
  • Bent limbs or fixed joints;
  • Curved spine;
  • Fixed necks;
  • ‘Dummy lambs’ – alive; but can be blind, unable to stand or suck, and may have seizures;
  • Abortions.

Controlling The Disease

Schmallenberg first hit Irish shores in 2012. It was transported by midges and affected flocks mainly in the southern and eastern parts of the country.

vaccine is available and will not impact farmers’ ability to trade their animals within the EU. However, this must be applied before pregnancy to take effect.

As Schmallenberg virus is not a notifiable disease, there are currently no movement restrictions in place and no controls are required.

There are no human health implications associated with the disease, nor any food safety implications.

More information on the disease is available on the department’s website.

AFBI’s labs are open between 9:00am and 5:00pm, Monday to Friday. The latest carcasses can be dropped off for testing is 4:30pm each day.