Spring calving suckler producers are being advised to take advantage of the limited stock of Schmallenberg vaccine available and protect their herds pre-service, following widespread reports of the disease.
Several cases have been reported in Northern Ireland in the past month, and monitoring in Scotland of bulk milk samples (by SAC Veterinary Services and Livestock Health Scotland) also confirmed circulation of the virus during autumn last year in South West Scotland.
Zoetis vet Carolyn Hogan said that Zulvac SBV from Zoetis, is the only vaccine offering protection against Schmallenberg virus.
There is a limited window to protect spring calving suckler cows post-calving, as the vaccination programme ideally needs to start at least five weeks before service.
Ms Hogan said: “The vaccination programme in cattle is a two-dose programme and offers 12-months of protection. This means cows calving in March and being served in June can be vaccinated with the first dose of Zulvac SBV in April, with the second dose given three weeks later. It is not licensed for use in pregnant cows, which is why the best time to vaccinate cows is prior to service.”
Cows are most at risk if they become infected in their third to fifth month of pregnancy (70-150 days), meaning those calving in spring will have cows in their third to fifth months of pregnancy during the May to October active midge period.
Last year, according to the Animal and Health Plant Agency Surveillance Intelligence Unit, there were 101 confirmed cases of the disease in cattle and 125 in sheep.