Sheep farmers in the Midhurst and Petworth area face nail-biting wait

Sheep farmers in the Midhurst and Petworth area are facing a nail-biting few weeks to find out whether they have been affected by the sheep disease threatening the south east.

Schmallenberg disease for which there is currently no vaccine, causes abortions, stillbirths and birth defects in sheep and cattle.

It is believed to have been brought to this country by infected midges blown across the Channel.

So far there have been six reported cases in sheep and one in cattle in West Sussex.

But across the county border in East Sussex farmers have the highest recorded number of cases in the country with 15 cases.

Bignor farmer Tom Tupper who has 1,000 ewes which are due to start lambing on March 20 said: “It’s a worry for us, but we have just got to wait and see. It is a nail-biting time.”

He said little was known about the disease and there was no blood test to establish whether ewes were affected.

“The practicalities are that until we start lambing, we really won’t know if we have got it or not and there is nothing we can do in the meantime to assess the situation.

“It is a major risk and if what we are told is right farmers could lose 20 to 25 per cent of their lambs if the livestock have the virus.”

For full story see Midhurst and Petworth Observer March 1