Cases of Schmallenberg on sheep farms are estimated to be at a five-year high, after a spike in the virus in early lambing flocks.

As Schmellenberg is not a notifiable disease, pinpointing the exact number of cases at farm level is difficult.

However, official figures show 63 positive cases were reported to the Animal and Plant Health Agency from December to mid-January.

The majority of cases were confirmed in stillborn lambs and located in western and southern parts of Britain.

Veterinary officials in the Republic of Ireland have also raised alarm at the rise in lambs and calves born with deformities this spring, and have been encouraging farmers to report suspect cases. The Schmallenberg virus is primarily transmitted by midges and can affect all ruminants, although it is most common in sheep.

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