Virus concerns are thankfully allayed by visit from the vet

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WE genuinely thought we had had a case of the Schmallenberg virus on the farm this week

The Schmallenberg virus or SBV is transmitted by culicoid midges, a biting midge that has spread rapidly across northern Europe in 2011 and into England last year.

How it entered northern Europe is unknown but many of the countries have notified the birth of malformed foetuses or live births.

A neighbouring farm has had three cows with deformed calf foetuses and another, early lambing farm, multiple cases of deformed lambs.

There is a very narrow window of opportunity for the midges to transmit the virus as it needs to infect the ewes or cows during the very early stages of pregnancy.

Hit or miss indeed. In our case a late tupping date will hopefully be an important preventative factor as we will have missed the main midge season and the risk of infection will have reduced.

Science lesson abandoned, you can focus again now, we went into major alert when a calf was born last week with a twisted leg that prevented it from being able to stand up.

If the calf made an effort to get up it just toppled over and would to or could not stand to drink from its Mum.

We knew that SBV affected foetuses can often present calving difficulties because if the calf has rigid or stiff limbs, delivery is complicated.

Was this why we had a wonky calf with a twisted leg? Fortunately not the vet assured us. He diagnosed an extend hock ligament that he thought would have resulted from an awkward position in the cow’s womb.

Or that is what he hoped not which was not quite so reassuring. Placing his bets either way like most vets. For example: “it might live, but do not be surprised if it dies”.

The good news is that after a week’s coddling, tube feeding and isolation from the rest of the herd whilst the leg grew stronger, the calf is now part of the general melee in the yard and doing well.

At first John made a pen for Mum and calf that allowed her to access the silage clamp and drinking troughs, but kept the calf safe.

For three days he was stripping the cow out for milk for the calf, which the cow showed she really appreciated by a neat up tail and splatter.

Then the calf suddenly twigged what he should be doing to drink, his leg strengthened and he was up on all four feet. Success.

I meanwhile had been working hard to send John off his feet. One of the many domestic, wifely, tender tasks I administrate is trimming John’s toenails. At 6ft 4in, his toes are a long way off from his hands. He claims.

Whilst shopping I noticed a fantastic gadget that would slice off nails in a sort of pincer, plier motion.

Not unlike the tool John uses to clip the sheep’s hooves. And it transpired with a similar effect as I neatly sliced off the end of his little toe. Was that a cheer I heard from the ewe’s field?

Mrs Downs Diary