FARMERS in Oxfordshire have spoken of their worries as a deadly disease affecting sheep, cattle and goats is closing in on the county.

As reported in yesterday’s Oxford Mail, Schmallenberg virus, which results in animals being born dead or with serious deformities, has been confirmed in 74 farms in England, including cases in West Berkshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

National Farmers’ Union Vale and Wallingford group secretary Andrew Forsyth said: “Farmers are hoping for the best and fearing what may come but until we lamb we won’t know.”

The virus was first found in the German town of Schmallenberg last summer, and a vaccine is thought to be at least two years away.

Lambs have been born with bent limbs and fused joints, brain deformities and damage to the spinal chord, while cattle suffer diarrhoea, fever and a reduction in milk yield.

The disease is not thought to transfer to humans.

Camilla Puzey, from Hill Farm, Little Wittenham, has 300 ewes due to lamb in three weeks’ time.

She said if the flock contracted the virus it would be “devastating emotionally and financially”.

She said: “It sounds like it is only a matter of time before a case is confirmed in Oxfordshire.

“We’re doing our lambing preparations and they’re all looking really well but we have got this very dark cloud looming over us.”