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A Quarter of Some Cornish Flocks Wiped Out by Disease

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7:01am 8th January 2013

Pirate FM has learnt a quarter of lambs from some Cornish flocks have been infected with a virus that can kill newborns in seconds.

It is understood almost sixty cases of Schmallenberg have been confirmed in the early lambing season.

It is thought to have been carried into the Duchy by midges.

Ian Johnson speaks for the NFU in Cornwall. He said: "It's like Russian roulette. It's like having a big black cloud hanging over you. You don't know whether you've got the problem until the ewes give birth to the lambs. They're horribly deformed, they're not viable, they can't feed and, if they're not already dead, they have to be destroyed as soon as they're born.

"At a time when there should be new life and hope and spring in the fields, after the worst year in living memory for practically every farmer, it's a terrible big black cloud to be hanging over farms."

Launceston vet Tim Bebbington is urging farmers to report potential cases to increase pressure on officials to release a vaccine: "We do have a vaccine which has been developed which has shown good protection in the trials it has been through. That vaccine is in for its official licence, which takes some time.

"Lambing is the hardest time for the sheep farmer. They can't afford losses at this level which really they can do nothing about. We believe it is borne by midges. We can't control where midges fly and who they bite so there is no control over the spread of the disease."

7:01am 8th January 2013

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