A Powys Farmer has said to other farmers “they are not alone” after being hit by the Schmallenberg virus.

Stella Owen who is based near Brecon and is a NFU County Advisor for Brecon and Radnorshire has shared her story about the impact the virus had on her farm earlier this year to let other farmers know they are not alone.

The virus is spread by infected midges and causes sheep who are pregnant to birth lambs with defects and deformities.

“We put 100 ewes to the ram back in end of August and the beginning September last year. All quite normal for us,” said Stella “We try to lamb in blocks so we hit the trade right.

“We were dipping then on September 11 and it was extremely mild and hot – very, very muggy weather.

“It did go through my head then ‘my word, I do hope there’s not a midge floating round here’ because it was so exceptionally mild and humid.”

“We never thought any more about it. We scanned the end of December and it was all quite normal.”


However it soon became apparent that there were some serious issues when the lambs started appearing in January.

“February 8 for me was the line in the sand,” said Stella “That was the first day a normal lamb arrived – up until then we’d had deaths, deformities, deformed lambs born alive then die with in half an hour.

“Some of them you were really trying your best to bring them round and you just couldn't get breath into them. They were formed but they just weren’t right, you could see their coat wasn’t right.

“Because we were at the start of lambing, we didn’t have pet lambs to go onto these ewes who were obviously full of milk. It was really daunting. You were thinking ‘oh no how long is this going to go on for?’"

Around a fifth of the 100 ewes that had gone to ram were affected.

“The second batch went to the tup on September 15 and we had dipped then and it seems to have saved them as the midge didn’t like the smell of the dip,” added Stella.

“It was gutting, it was in the younger ewes as well, they’re our really good young prime stock. You have done the hard, you’ve given them the best, you’ve given them all their minerals and then to see that happen in the end.”

The aftermath has been no less confusing event though she is an experienced farmer

“It was new for us, what do we do with these ewes now?” said Stella. “Do we keep them in because they’re the immune ones.? Or do we get rid of them because we can’t have these running around taking a field up with no produce.

“We have a bit of a scratch our head moment with them.

“We’ve kept some of the younger ones, you just have to give them another chance and if they are naturally immune they are the ones you want.

“What has happened as well is because they have got milk and we have got nothing to go on them, their udders have gone wrong so there is a knock-on impact there as well.”

Stella said that she had seen it was spreading through other parts of the UK and had “never seen so many messages asking for pet lambs” but never thought it would make it “this far west”.

“I think it is really important that others people know we have suffered as well, people are not alone.

“It does get on top of you. You go in that shed and you think ‘oh my god, what are we facing this morning?”

“We didn’t know if we were going to get through it, it does weigh down on you.

“If it is warm and humid just have a little think about where you are putting ewes to the ram and when you want to lamb.”