The ArgusSussex farms hit by deadly virus (From The Argus)

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Sussex farms hit by deadly virus

Farmers across Sussex are bracing themselves for the impact of a new deadly livestock virus sweeping across the county.

Thousands of lambs and calves could be destroyed over the next few months, putting the future of many farms at risk.

Sussex has been the worst hit area in the country by the Schmallenberg virus, with 18 sheep farms and one cattle farm affected.

Across the country there had been 74 cases reported last night.

However, the number is expected to rise rapidly as the lambing season starts in earnest.

Government experts stress they do not believe the virus will affect humans or enter the food chain but say they cannot rule either out because the virus has only recently been discovered.

Lost income

Farmers are concerned that consumers could turn away from lamb because they are worried it is unsafe.

Working farms that also take visits from the public are also worried people will stay away.

The Schmallenberg virus is thought to be spread by midges, mosquitoes and ticks and causes birth defects, stillbirths and miscarriages.

However, farmers do not know if their animals have been affected until they give birth.

They are now facing an anxious wait to discover whether their flocks and herds have been infected.

Dozens of lambs at farms around the county have already been born with deformities and have either been destroyed or have died within minutes of being born.

The virus first emerged in the Netherlands and Germany last year.

Farmers say it is the uncertainty that is causing the most worry.

Sue Clay works under contract at farms in Sussex during the lambing season.

She has recently been working at a farm in East Sussex which has lost 40 of the 400 lambs born so far this year.

She said: “It has all been such a shock and has been a very difficult time.

“At first a couple of lambs were born with deformities and we thought that was just a bit of bad luck but then more and more were being affected."

She added: “Farmers were only just beginning to get back on their feet again after the foot and mouth outbreak and then something like this comes along.

“I’m about to start work at another farm next week and I’m dreading what might happen."

Experts believe up to 20% of a herd or flock could be affected at a time.

So far 14 sheep farms in East Sussex and four in West Sussex have been affected.

'Worrying'

Trevor Passmore, of Church Farm in Coombes, near Lancing, is expecting around 1,200 lambs to be born this year but has no idea at the moment whether his flock is carrying the virus.

He said: “It is just a matter of having to wait and see and that is very worrying. This could be devastating."

Cattle farmer Michael Fordham, from Uckfield, has just retired from the local committee of the National Farmers’ Union.

He said it was believed midges had brought the infection over last autumn and it was only now as sheep began to give birth that the impact was being felt.

He said cows had a longer gestation period than sheep so it would be another few weeks before farmers would know if they were affected.

He said: “We’re definitely worried, particularly as don’t know an awful lot about this virus.

"We are just watching and waiting to see how things develop.”

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “As farmers, vets, and governments continue to gather information about the progress and effects of this disease, it's vital that farmers continue to report any suspicions they have as soon as possible.

"The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says it is unlikely Schmallenberg virus would cause disease in humans."

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said people should still eat lamb and any risk to consumers through the food chain is likely to be low.

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Comments (8)

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3:34pm Mon 27 Feb 12

Twittern Wanderer says...

Schmallenberg Virus is not a notifiable disease but farmers are asked to contact their veterinary surgeon if they encounter cases of ruminant neonates or fetuses which are stillborn, show malformations or are showing nervous disease.
Schmallenberg Virus is not a notifiable disease but farmers are asked to contact their veterinary surgeon if they encounter cases of ruminant neonates or fetuses which are stillborn, show malformations or are showing nervous disease. Twittern Wanderer
  • Score: 0

3:41pm Mon 27 Feb 12

Crystal Ball says...

Twittern Wanderer wrote:
Schmallenberg Virus is not a notifiable disease but farmers are asked to contact their veterinary surgeon if they encounter cases of ruminant neonates or fetuses which are stillborn, show malformations or are showing nervous disease.
That's all very well but what about the Livestock?
[quote][p][bold]Twittern Wanderer[/bold] wrote: Schmallenberg Virus is not a notifiable disease but farmers are asked to contact their veterinary surgeon if they encounter cases of ruminant neonates or fetuses which are stillborn, show malformations or are showing nervous disease.[/p][/quote]That's all very well but what about the Livestock? Crystal Ball
  • Score: 0

7:46pm Mon 27 Feb 12

Spx says...

Oh dear, more riddled animals for the dinner table. Don't start buying all my tofu!
Oh dear, more riddled animals for the dinner table. Don't start buying all my tofu! Spx
  • Score: 0

8:37pm Mon 27 Feb 12

thewhitehawker says...

Spx wrote:
Oh dear, more riddled animals for the dinner table. Don't start buying all my tofu!
I love a bit of lamb !
[quote][p][bold]Spx[/bold] wrote: Oh dear, more riddled animals for the dinner table. Don't start buying all my tofu![/p][/quote]I love a bit of lamb ! thewhitehawker
  • Score: 0

7:04am Tue 28 Feb 12

george smith says...

Why would we cover a city that is essentially a tourist destination with sheep? Is it because we are green?
Why would we cover a city that is essentially a tourist destination with sheep? Is it because we are green? george smith
  • Score: 0

7:43am Tue 28 Feb 12

Juleyanne says...

Another livestock disease spread through transportation of live animals. Sadly I suspect that many farmers will be mainly concerned with how much this will cost them rather than the plight of their poor animals! It seems everything else is to blame for bad farming practices as has recently been the case with the british badger who has lived alongside cattle for thousands of years without a problem until farmers stripped hedgerows, woodland and destroyed wildlife habitats, insects and generally turned eco systems on their heads. Many bird species have been almost wiped out by these farming practices and caused wildlife to seek new habitats
and cross paths with livestock.
Mad Cow Disease to name but a few all caused by unnatural farming practices in their quest for more profit. I also blame supermarket chains for this carnage.
Another livestock disease spread through transportation of live animals. Sadly I suspect that many farmers will be mainly concerned with how much this will cost them rather than the plight of their poor animals! It seems everything else is to blame for bad farming practices as has recently been the case with the british badger who has lived alongside cattle for thousands of years without a problem until farmers stripped hedgerows, woodland and destroyed wildlife habitats, insects and generally turned eco systems on their heads. Many bird species have been almost wiped out by these farming practices and caused wildlife to seek new habitats and cross paths with livestock. Mad Cow Disease to name but a few all caused by unnatural farming practices in their quest for more profit. I also blame supermarket chains for this carnage. Juleyanne
  • Score: 0

1:47pm Tue 28 Feb 12

Kid Neewiper says...

Sussex Farms have not been 'hit' by the virus as stated in the headline. Must try harder Ms Ryan!
Sussex Farms have not been 'hit' by the virus as stated in the headline. Must try harder Ms Ryan! Kid Neewiper
  • Score: 0

2:37pm Tue 28 Feb 12

AngelicDevil says...

Juleyanne wrote:
Another livestock disease spread through transportation of live animals. Sadly I suspect that many farmers will be mainly concerned with how much this will cost them rather than the plight of their poor animals! It seems everything else is to blame for bad farming practices as has recently been the case with the british badger who has lived alongside cattle for thousands of years without a problem until farmers stripped hedgerows, woodland and destroyed wildlife habitats, insects and generally turned eco systems on their heads. Many bird species have been almost wiped out by these farming practices and caused wildlife to seek new habitats and cross paths with livestock. Mad Cow Disease to name but a few all caused by unnatural farming practices in their quest for more profit. I also blame supermarket chains for this carnage.
Actually, it's most likely midges that spread this disease.

Get your facts right before jumping on the "transportation of livestock is cruel" wagon.
[quote][p][bold]Juleyanne[/bold] wrote: Another livestock disease spread through transportation of live animals. Sadly I suspect that many farmers will be mainly concerned with how much this will cost them rather than the plight of their poor animals! It seems everything else is to blame for bad farming practices as has recently been the case with the british badger who has lived alongside cattle for thousands of years without a problem until farmers stripped hedgerows, woodland and destroyed wildlife habitats, insects and generally turned eco systems on their heads. Many bird species have been almost wiped out by these farming practices and caused wildlife to seek new habitats and cross paths with livestock. Mad Cow Disease to name but a few all caused by unnatural farming practices in their quest for more profit. I also blame supermarket chains for this carnage.[/p][/quote]Actually, it's most likely midges that spread this disease. Get your facts right before jumping on the "transportation of livestock is cruel" wagon. AngelicDevil
  • Score: 0

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