VET’S DIARY: The virus that sounds like a small German town

THIS year we are holding our annual winter farmers’ meeting at Alnwick Rugby Club on Monday, February 6, at 7pm, writes Stuart Morris.

We have chosen a selection of topics that we think will appeal to the widest range of livestock farmers.

There will be plenty of time for discussion and we will be keen to hear your views.

Following the essential tea and sandwiches, the meeting will begin with a presentation from an invited speaker.

We are fortunate to be able to welcome Neil Sargison to Alnwick.

Neil is a large animal vet from the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School in Edinburgh.

In addition to his day job at the farm clinic, Neil finds the time to be a widely-published author and speaker on livestock diseases and management.

Neil will speak on the subject of liver fluke.

Improving our knowledge of this problem parasite is vital if we are to combat the twin challenges of the emergence of resistance to medicines in liver fluke and the appearance of liver fluke earlier in the annual calendar.

It has long been recognised that many of the farms in Northumberland have pastures deficient in essential trace elements causing important production losses in cattle and sheep.

Where there are production losses, there are of course financial losses!

Once a diagnosis of trace element deficiency has been made a plan can be devised to correct this.

However, with a large range of products on the market it can be difficult to select an appropriate supplement.

Last summer, a trial of several different trace element supplements in growing lambs began at the Monitor Farm, Donkin Rigg.

John Macfarlane will update us on the interesting results of the trial and go on to describe trace element supplementation strategies.

It has been frustrating for all of us that a number of trace element supplementation products have become unavailable in the UK in the last two years.

Joe Henry has been working hard to establish supply lines for the importation of replacement products.

Joe will talk about the range of products that we have made available for use in both sheep and cattle and the process by which we can import and supply them.

With much focus having been placed on the role of the bull in a well-managed beef herd, we will turn our attention to the selection and management of heifers, with a presentation by Andrew Sawyer.

Following on from a recent successful workshop, Andrew will describe how some simple selection criteria can improve the efficiency of a beef herd.

Finally, and in addition to the advertised programme, we will have a short presentation on Schmallenberg virus.

While the scientists involved may not have come up with a very catchy name (the name comes from the German town where the virus was first identified), this newly-discovered virus has now been identified on four farms in the UK and deserves our attention.

Schmallenberg virus has been identified in cattle, sheep and goats in Germany, Holland and Belgium. Knowledge of the virus is currently limited, with new information being added continuously.

The virus causes a malaise in adult animals with signs possibly including fever, loss of body condition and diaorrhea followed by recovery.

Reports then emerged of the birth of lambs, calves and kids with congenital deformities. The deformities include crooked necks and stiff joints. These newborns did not survive.

The virus is thought to be transmitted by insects, making spread unlikely at this time of year.

We must all remain vigilant for this new disease.

We are looking forward to an excellent meeting on Monday.

If you would like to come along, call our Alnwick surgery on 01665 510999 for more information.

Hope to see you there.