Yesterday evening I watched as clouds of midges danced in the golden rays of the setting sun outside the kitchen window. I tried to take a photo of them. This is the result. Fireflies? Perhaps. Fairies? Possibly. Dancing debris from a fire? Could be. But midges? No!
Midges bring with them a sinister reputation. The more so since I’ve heard this disquieting news through the Farmers Weekly. Many farmers, with animals already stressed by the dire weather, believe rumours that if vaccinated against bluetongue disease they might fail to breed. FWi reports “The doubts over vaccinating were reflected at Penrith livestock market which reported that of 6000 mules through only two batches of ewes were vaccinated”.
The uptake of the vaccine has been so low in the North of England that only one in five livestock farms is protected.
A Cumbria suckled calf producer is quoted as saying “I’ve decided to leave my vaccine in the fridge until the spring. I want my cows safely in calf and a crop of calves on the ground before I start to jab.”
Chief veterinary officer Christianne Glossop reports that the uptake of vaccine in Wales has been disappointingly low. FWi quotes Alun Edwards, a Welsh farmer and Farmers Union of Wales office holder, as saying producers who resist vaccination to be “bloody idiots”.
I can only speak from my own experience.
I vaccinated in late May as soon as the vaccine was available in Devon. My bull had only been running with the cows for a couple of weeks before I vaccinated and as far as I know, to date, all cows and heifers I would expect to be are in calf. I had the most vulnerable animals PD (pregnancy diagnosed) when I was bTB testing the other week and they are 2½ -3 months in calf.
Despite the weather, and vaccination, my lambs have grown well and have killed out at a good average weight of 15-16kgs – Whiteface Dartmoor lambs give a small to medium size carcass. The tups go in with the ewes at the end of next week, so I will soon see how that goes.
I urge farmers to think really carefully about the consequences of not vaccinating. If your animals contract Bluetongue, even if they don’t die (with up to 70% mortality in sheep) they will suffer horrendous consequences. Abortion, stillbirth and neonatal mortality are increased with survivors suffering from infertility, depleted lactation and chronic weight loss. These things are a certainty. I know vaccination’s an added cost in a year that’s bleak, but the consequences, emotionally and financially, will be a hundred times worse with the disease.
For immediate up-to-date information on bluetongue and the various forms of available vaccination in the UK, and on the continent, follow this link to Warmwell.
Mr Edwards also questioned the sanity of importing livestock from infected areas following the first cases of bluetongue found in imported cattle on a Denbighshire farm.
So do I. So do I!