ANALYSIS - Cattle and sheep farmers are to be offered a vaccine to tackle the dreaded Schmallenberg virus, a bunyavirus spread by midges causing congenital malformations by transmitting to the foetus from the infected cow or ewe, writes Michael Priestley, TheCattleSite editor.
A vaccine, put through clinical trials by MSD animal health, could stop another swathe of breeding stock becoming infected. The product is currently on regulatory submission in several European countries.
Late in 2011, milk yield decreases were observed on dairy farms with little knowledge of the causative agent. Eventually, this was identified as the Schmallenberg virus, says Lawrence Williamson, Global Marketing Director at MSD/Merck Animal Health.
Schmallenberg, named after the German town where it was first isolated, is noted for its rapid spread. As a bunyavirus, it is more typically seen closer to the equator but has adapted, moved north and presented farmers with a new challenge.
Now spread across most of Europe and all counties of England and Wales, Schmallenberg impacts heavily on the reproductive side of enterprises with many calves and lambs born deformed and dying soon after birth.