Moor sheep are hit by Euro virus

12-184                 Ill and healthy lambs on Boxmoor, Hemel Hempstead.'Healthy Norfolk /Ryland cross ewe and lambs.
12-184 Ill and healthy lambs on Boxmoor, Hemel Hempstead.'Healthy Norfolk /Ryland cross ewe and lambs.

LIVESTOCK in Hemel Hempstead have been struck down by a new virus that has been carried across the channel from central Europe by midges.

In a blow that has landed as lambs are being born, the Box Moor Trust has discovered that a number of its rare Norfolk Horn sheep have the Schmellenberg virus.

The virus is believed to have originated in Germany and the first cases were reported in the UK in January this year.

It can affect a variety of livestock but in sheep it only seems to affect newborn animals and fetuses where the disease can cause deformity or result in stillbirths.

The Trust’s estate manager Phil Pennington said: “Fortunately it’s not that devastating as only around five per cent of our 130 sheep have been affected.

“It doesn’t seem to have an impact on the adult sheep but a few of this year’s lambs have some kind of deformity and two were stillborn.

“We always have a certain level of mortality around this time of year from one thing or another and we will just have to see what happens.

“Due to a lack of research so far it’s also not clear if it will have an impact on the cattle this autumn.”

The Box Moor Trust has a number of the rare Norfolk Horn breed for conservation purposes.

Trust general manager Ian Richardson said: “It’s a shame all round and it highlights the dangers of farming these days.

“It will be even worse for farmers who rely on their livestock for commercial reasons.”

It is not believed that the virus can be passed on to humans.