Scotland’s Rural College vets are urging farmers not to bury their heads in the sand about the threat from the incurable viral sheep disease, Maedi Visna (MV).
Caused by a retrovirus and introduced through imported animals, MV can lead to poor body condition, poorer fertility, increased mastitis, smaller and weaker lambs and increased mortality. And so far there is no cure or vaccine.
Veterinary investigation officer at SAC Consulting at St Boswells, Lynn Gibson said: “The disease is spread by contact so any bought-in animals are a risk. The incidence of the disease is increasing so the risk of buying it into your flock has increased.”
Recent samples found 11 out of 12 ewes in one flock tested positive and in another, 41 out of 48 were positive and outbreaks are increasing.
SAC Consulting’s health schemes manager, Ian Pritchard said: “It is true to say that these flocks suspected an issue and were prepared to deal with it.
“How many flocks out there could have an issue, but have not, or are afraid to, look for MV? Producers cannot afford to be complacent and underestimate the risks of the disease.
“It could have a severe effect on the productivity and economics of their sheep system.”
He recommended sheep producers buy in any breeding replacements from MV accredited flocks, and those selling do likewise.
He said: “The British sheep flock is renowned for the high quality of its product – let it be renowned for high standards of animal health. Do not let MV get a foothold.”