Fingers crossed at rare breeds farm over virus

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STAFF at a popular rare breeds farm are keeping their fingers crossed that a continental virus will not hit lambing.

Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, near Needham Market, expects lambing to start next week and will not know until then if its flocks are clear of the insect-borne Schmallenberg virus (SBV).

SBV is found on the continent and is spread by mosquitos and gnats. Last week, the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratory Agency (AHVLA) confirmed SBV had been detected on four sheep farms in Norfolk, Suffolk and East Sussex.

It believes the animals were infected during the summer, but the disease only shows then as a minor illness with diarrhoea. However, it causes deformities in lambs, calves and goat kids, so the cases came to light as lambing started. The AHVLA warns that camelids, including lamas and alpaccas, may also be vulnerable.

Neil Storer, Baylham partner and livestock manager, said: “You can’t be sure you haven’t any infected animals without the birth defects so you’re holding your breath to see how lambing goes.

“With the rare breeds there are small groups dotted about everywhere, so the breed itself isn’t threatened, but for an individual it means the loss of your lambs for a year, or longer because there’s no vaccination.”

Baylham House has been hit by European insect-borne disease before, having had the first case of blue tongue in the country in 2007. However, where blue tongue can spread to humans, the AHVLA says that is thought to be unlikely with SBV.

Baylham House plans to open for half term lambing visits on February 11.