Livestock virus cases suspected in Northamptonshire

FARMERS fear a ticking time bomb could wipe out half their livestock after cases of an incurable killer virus were reported in the north of the county.

Vets are 99 per cent sure two calves born severely deformed at a farm in Brigstock were infected by the Schmallenberg virus (SMV), which is killing sheep and cattle across the south and east of the country.

Farmers will only know if their animals are affected once they give birth.

Nick Wooster, of Rose Villa, Brigstock, who expects the first calf born deformed to be confirmed as only the fourth case of SMV in calves in the country later this week, said: “It’s something that you think is never going to happen to you, but when you start getting these awful deformities it’s very worrying.

“Obviously it’s in the back of your mind. Every calf coming now you are holding your breath and hoping it’s OK.”

The first calf was born with deformed back legs a fortnight ago.

Mr Wooster said: “We kept it going but had to put it down today because it wasn’t thriving.”

On Saturday a vet had to induce another birth at the farm because the calf was so deformed. Its spine was twisted, its back legs bent and it was completely blind.

Andrew Brown, 48, who has about 400 sheep at Fair Childs Lodge near Lyddington and is regional chairman of the National Farmers’ Union, said the virus may put some farms out of business as up to half of flocks have been affected.

He said: “It’s like a ticking time bomb. Until we get into the main lambing period we won’t know the full extent.”

A Government spokesman said: “As farmers, vets, and governments continue to gather information about the progress and effects of this disease, it’s vital that farmers continue to report any suspicions they have as soon as possible.

“The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says it is unlikely Schmallenberg Virus would cause disease in humans.”