Ulster Unionist Leader Robin Swann has warned that reports of Schmallenburg in Northern Ireland appear to now be an inevitability as further cases were reported just across the border in the Irish Republic.
Robin Swann said that the past week has seen further reports of aborted calves and lambs in the Cavan and Leitrim areas.
He added: “This follows warnings from the authorities in the Republic that the Schmallenburg virus had been creeping northwards on the island and now I fear it is inevitable that suspected cases will also now be reported in Northern Ireland.
“After a few years’ lull, the concern would be that the disease could now reappear with some vigour. I would urge farmers, especially those closer to the border to show vigilance, if they encounter malformations in new born stock.
“The disease first appeared in 2011 and quickly spread across much of western Europe. Thankfully with the passage of time a vaccination has been developed. Depending on the scale of the problem – something which should become clearer over the next few weeks – farmers may wish to consider vaccinating in order to ensure their flocks or herds are protected, thereby preventing future lamb and calf crop losses.
“The period sheep are most at risk from is the second month of pregnancy and cattle the third to fifth month of pregnancy, and whilst it might be too late for the new stock being born this spring, vaccinations would at least provide some degree of protection for next year.
“If a farmer spots any signs I would urge them to contact their local vet for advice. I understand losses can occur on any farm for a whole series of reasons, so not all still-births will be the virus, but given the outbreaks just across the border it’s important our farmers be alert to the fact that it may well be the Schmallenburg virus.
“Reporting dead new-borns and requesting post-mortems can sometimes be a long-drawn-out task, however it would at least allow them to confirm or rule out specific issues in that animal, as well as the wider flock or herd.
“I will be writing to DAERA asking what precautions they are taking and what financial support they will be offering farmers who wish to test for the virus.”