Livestock farmers are being urged to seek veterinary advice if they are considering vaccinating stock against Schmallenberg virus (SBV).
In a joint statement issued today (19 July 2013), key livestock and associated industry organisations (*see list below) urged producers to obtain appropriate advice from their farm vets to ensure they make informed decisions about the need to use the recently-authorised SBV vaccine.
“Before farmers take any decisions about vaccinating their animals their first step should be a discussion with their farm vet. There are a great many factors to consider and it is important they seek good advice so any use of the vaccine is informed and effective,” said Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland.
SBV affects ruminants, particularly sheep, cattle and goats and the evidence so far suggests it is primarily spread by biting insects, such as midges.
While it is not possible to be specific about the clinical signs of the disease, they may include a drop in milk production, fever and diarrhoea in adult cattle, abortion or early embryonic death. The clinical signs may also include abnormalities in newborn cattle, sheep and goats.
“If livestock keepers experience abortions in their livestock they should not assume that the cause is SBV. There are many other possible reasons for abortions and keepers should contact their veterinary practitioner for further advice,” added Mr McLaren.
Sheila Voas, Chief Veterinary Officer for Scotland added: “The use of the vaccine will depend on the individual circumstances on each farm. I would urge farmers to consult with their private vet at the earliest opportunity to discuss the options best suited to their husbandry practices.”
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), an executive agency of Defra responsible for the authorisation of veterinary medicines in the UK, announced in May 2013 that it had issued a provisional marketing authorisation for an SBV vaccine. This is the first vaccine against this virus to be authorised for use anywhere in the EU.
The recent confirmation by SRUC of SBV in deformed calves in Dumfries and Galloway and in Aberdeenshire is evidence that SBV was circulating late last year. In addition, there is some limited evidence of the infection reaching Islay.
SBV vaccine is based on killed virus, and the body produces antibodies it to in order to protect against natural infection of the live virus.
However, as this is a new vaccine it is not yet known how long immunity will last. The datasheet provided by the company that is marketing the new vaccine indicates that it cannot be used in pregnant animals. Cattle from two months of age will require an injection of two 2ml doses administered approximately four weeks apart. This means that it is too late to vaccinate cows now mated for spring calving in 2014.
Sheep, from four months of age, will require one 2ml dose and will develop immunity three weeks after vaccination.
The vaccine is available in vials of 20 or 100 ml. As the duration of immunity is not yet established, any revaccination scheme should be agreed in consultation with farm vets.
*The organisations supporting this advice include the following: Scottish Government; Quality Meat Scotland (QMS); NFU Scotland; National Sheep Association (NSA); Scottish Beef Association; Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW); Scottish SPCA; Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Associations (SFMTA); Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC); The Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS); Road Haulage Association (RHA); and the British Veterinary Association (BVA); and Biobest.