It is pleasing to see the mainstream media picking up on the Schmallenberg virus currently affecting the European sheep industry, and as covered in The Grocer on 18 February.

It will take some time to see the true impact of the spread of this disease, but it is having an effect on livestock production business and profitability. However, it is important to understand that there is no impact on human health as it is not transmissible to humans through either meat or dairy products. This was confirmed in an EC statement and reiterated this week by the FSA. Unfortunately though, this is something many news sources have failed to highlight.

Latest information from Defra states that currently 78 out of 65,000 sheep flocks in the UK are affected. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in affected flocks mortality rates among newborn lambs range from 5% to 20%. It is too early to determine whether the virus will significantly affect supply.

This is, of course, an emerging issue that everyone is monitoring, but all that can be done is being done and the industry is better prepared than ever to cope with the impact of a disease outbreak.

Nick Allen, sector director, Eblex