At last, we see some weather that is more akin to the time of year. And what a welcome sight it is as we all rush out to sow, roll, and begin the task of harvesting. It has been a long winter so the warmer weather and bright evenings is a huge comforting hug. I wonder if the thunderstorm on Sunday hit all of Wales? Answers on a postcard please!

One thing that is not so welcome as our UK atmosphere dries and warms up, is the arrival of insects. Not just a bane to our kitchens and bedrooms, but a real threat to our stock. Bluetongue (BTV3) the insect-borne, viral disease that affects sheep and cattle is now a higher threat, say the Welsh Government. 

One important fact I should share with you is that thankfully this disease does not affect people or the safety of the food that we eat. 

In livestock, we know that cases were confirmed for the first time last November at a location in Kent, with further cases then found in Kent, Norfolk, and Suffolk. Several types of BTV are circulating widely throughout Europe with the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Italy identifying BTV3 in their livestock. Clinical symptoms in Europe have been profuse with reports of considerable increased mortality in sheep and cattle with sizable milk yield reduction in dairy herds.

These warmer months increase midge activity with BTV3 transmitted to livestock through biting midges, active between April and November. BTV3 is a notifiable exotic disease that infects sheep and cattle and can have serious animal health, welfare and commercial implications for farm businesses.

How can we try and minimise the risk, here in Wales? Farmers are being asked to pay particular attention when

  • sourcing new livestock
  • practising good biosecurity
  • remaining vigilant

There are several variations of BTV, but this strain, BTV3, poses the highest threat to the UK livestock industry. Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine against BTV3. Existing vaccines for BTV8 serotype will not provide protection for this new strain.   

We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation and update members as the situation progresses. Enjoy the weather this week, and try and dodge the showers as much as possible!