Almost one in four farms in counties in the south and south east have been affected by Schmallenberg disease, a survey has revealed.
The survey, conducted by Dr Pat Bogue of Broadmore Research on behalf of MSD Animal Health, involved face-to-face interviews with 506 farmers.
Almost two-thirds of the participants are farming in the ‘high risk’ counties of Cork, Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary where the majority of Schmallenberg infections identified to date have been located.
Dairy farmers accounted for 40% of the participants with the remainder involved in suckling and/or sheep production. The average herd size of participants was 91 dairy cows, 37 suckler cows and 128 breeding ewes.
In the ‘high risk’ counties, some 23% of participants said they had an incidence of the Schmallenberg virus while almost one-third (31%) said they were aware of an incidence within five miles of their farm. Half of the farmers surveyed felt they were at high risk of being infected with Schmallenberg within the next year.
The Schmallenberg virus, which is spread by midges, can cause abortions and deformities in calves and lambs. The critical risk period for cows is between days 40 and 140 of pregnancy and for sheep between days 20 and 80 of pregnancy. Midges are active between April and November.
Named after the town in Germany where it was first identified in late 2011, the Schmallenberg virus spread to the south east of England in early 2012. The first case in Ireland was identified on a farm in Cork in October 2012 and it has since spread across counties in the south and south east. Based on the experience in the UK and other EU countries, it is likely that Schmallenberg will spread nationwide.