The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is calling for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to get a handle on the potential impact from other countries experiencing a second season of the virus, and respond accordingly with guidance and support for Irish farmers.
The number of Irish farms confirmed as infected rose from 33 mid-January to 54 by the end of the month, while a considerably higher number have been exposed to the virus.
While information from the UK and Germany suggests the number of cases on infected farms ranges from 2-5%, a number of Irish farms are experiencing much higher levels of problems and losses, according to John Bryan, IFA president.
He said severely-infected Irish farms were experiencing “financial loss, which in some cases is significant, and high levels of anxiety for all farmers who are struggling to come to terms with what was, until recently, an unknown virus.”
James Murphy, chairman of IFA’s National Sheep Committee, has lost 5% of his flock to Schmallenberg, but said some other farmers are expected to lose as much as half of their flocks.
Farms in sheltered areas alongside rivers are particularly susceptible to the midge-borne virus.
Recent outbreaks have also emerged among dairy and beef herds, including the dairy herd at Clonakilty Agricultural College.
To date, confirmed cases are centred on the counties of Cork, Kilkenny and Wexford, with farms also infected in Carlow, Dublin, Tipperary, Waterford and Wicklow.