Monday, 29 September 2008

Bluetongue Virus - To Jab or not to Jab…. That is the question.

Something rather bizarre’s been happening over the past few days. The sun has emerged, and for a blissful weekend it actually shone upon the righteous. That is the annual Langdon Beck Sheep show, which not only managed to take place this year, but it was also bathed in warm sunshine.

This is a traditional show in the finest traditions of the Northern Hills. Two hundred sheep and a `Bouncy Castle’. What more do you need? These are uncertain times though. Disease is never far away, and this year’s `plague de jour’ is Bluetongue. Unlike the foot and mouth virus, which knocked last year’s show on the head, Bluetongue is primarily tackled using vaccination.

Langdon Beck Show

At least that’s what the veterinary authorities would like to happen. Farmers have other ideas though, and many of those I spoke to at Langdon Beck had only vaccinated the stock which would be sold at this autumn’s sales. Of course there’s little point in vaccinating the fat lambs which will be going to the slaughterhouse in the next few weeks, they’d be dead – at the hands of the slaughterman - by the time the vaccine could take effect. There is according to vets a case for vaccinating the breeding stock which is staying on the hills.

Many farmers argue that at this time of year it’s impossible to gather in all the animals from the fells because there’s too many, and anyway the weather’s starting to get colder. Remember this is `Nine months of winter and three months of bad weather’ country. A lot of the farms take the view that the `vector-free’ period when the midges which carry the virus stop flying – and even die off, will be here quite soon.

The vets aren’t so sure and told me that a `Indian Summer’ could carry quite a risk of the disease re-emerging. There’s also a rumour circulating amongst the farmers that the vaccine can cause fertility problems amongst the ewes. Vets dismiss this saying the vaccine’s dead not live so there shouldn’t be any issues with it. Also there’s the cost. At fifty pence a dose, that can add up to more than a hundred pounds for even a small upland farm. But as one of the local vets told me that’s peanuts compared with the cost of treating even a couple of sheep which get the disease.

1 comment:

Arcadian Advocate said...

Yes, VACCINATE, please do not hesitate or all the efforts of the farmers who have already vaccinated will be wasted.
The vaccine is safe, it is a dead one and our stock [cattle and sheep] had no ill effects. We started vaccinating in early summer and the last calf was done around a month ago.
If we all vaccinate, and stop importing from BT zones, I believe we can eventually beat this disease. The effects of the BT8 [as seen in Europe last year] are truly terrible and our animals deserve our protection.