Farmers have been warned to look out for signs of the Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) during the spring calving and lambing period.
The warning comes after vets confirmed it had been circulating in Dumfries and Galloway throughout autumn last year.
George Caldow, head of SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, said while the results could only act as a guide, there was proof of active transmission of SBV which could lead to skeletal deformities.
The vet services monitored bulk milk samples from 50 Scottish dairy herds last autumn in conjunction with Livestock Health Scotland with funding from the Scottish government.
Several cases of the midge-borne virus were picked up in southern Scotland and northern England between mid-January and early May 2017, which SAC warned was indicative of an infection window between mid-September and mid-December.
Mr Caldow said: “Each farm acts only as sentinel to SBV virus activity in the local area and circumstances vary from farm to farm with regard to virus spread and midge activity.
“The results of the study so far can therefore only act as a guide, but do suggest that there has been some active transmission of the SBV virus in Dumfries and Galloway in the autumn of 2017.
“This could potentially lead to the birth of deformed lambs and calves. However, in other areas of the country, particularly north of the Central Belt, we expect the disease risk to be much lower. Farmers concerned about potential SBV risk should speak to their vets in the first instance.”
Initial infection in lambs and calves can cause general symptoms of reduced appetite, a raised temperature, milk drop and scour, but Mr Caldow warned some may be hard to detect.
SRUC board member and chairman of Livestock Health England added: “The SBV survey has highlighted the value of targeted surveillance and the strength of the SAC Consulting veterinary surveillance team linking up with milk producers across Scotland.
“The positive bulk milk samples from the south west not only provide an early warning of possible problems ahead, during the 2018 calving and lambing period, but also increase our understanding of the ability of the Schmallenberg virus and its vectors to persist and spread under Scottish climatic conditions.”
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