Scores of sheep on farms across North Devon have given birth to deformed or dead lambs due to the Schmallenberg virus.
It’s expected that as lambing gets fully under way hundreds of lambs in the area will either be aborted, born dead, or badly deformed and will have to be put down.
The first signs of flocks with the virus were seen during the summer, but only now are the deformities happening in numbers.
The south West vice chairman of the National Sheep Association, Bryan Grifiths, said he believes all the early-lambing farmers are seeing deformed lambs in their flocks.
The virus has hit the lambs from pedigree flocks which lamb early in the year.
The majority of sheep farmers in North Devon are holding their breath in the hope that their flocks might have some immunity because they were bitten by the midges which spread the disease before they became pregnant.
They won’t know the whole story until February/March 2013 when most of the lambs are born.
North Devon vet Mike Glover of Torch Veterinary and Equine has seen the disease in two flocks and is aware of Schmallenberg cropping up on other farms where the deaths aren’t being reported.
The virus is not a notifiable disease.
Warkleigh farmer Andrew Hammett keeps 800 sheep at Broadmoor Farm, and started lambing his Poll Dorsets a fortnight ago. He’s lost around 60 already because of Schmallenberg and fears his numbers will be down by as many as 200 out of an expected 600 lambs.