The tests are a result of a partnership involving the Scottish government, the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS), the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) as well as the Moredun Research Institute (MRI).
Already the SAC and MRI receive funding from the Scottish government to investigate clinical cases of SBV infection, which costs farmers a standard subsidised rate.
But a recent announcement of provisional support for SAC veterinary laboratories was made by NFUS and means four samples per-farm from cattle or sheep can now be tested for free. Cattle and sheep moving to Scotland from an area south of Lincolnshire to the Severn Estuary will be eligible for testing.
The action for free testing has been made to help Scottish farmers make informed decisions about the timing of breeding on their farms.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “News of any emerging disease is always concerning for farmers and livestock keepers. However, we now have a clearer idea of how the virus spreads and the relatively short time taken for animals to develop immunity. By testing animals that have been recently moved to Scotland we will get an early warning if the virus arrives in Scotland and will be able to trace its spread.”
Nigel Miller from NFUS explained that it is unknown how the virus will behave if imported with autumn livestock. He added: “It is likely that autumn’s lower temperatures will result in vector insect activity slowing, potentially stopping the spread of the virus
According to Miller livestock movements are about to peak over the next few weeks and SBV could therefore establish in new areas, including Scotland. Through post movement testing, he highlighted, farmers can receive an early warning to the presence of the virus and data can be shared through regional incidence mapping.
Miller said: “Preventative action will only be meaningful in autumn-calving cows or ewes. In these cases, delaying breeding of naive animals until vector activity drops in November may minimise impacts on foetal lambs or calves. Vaccine development is in progress and may provide more effective and flexible protection if a real threat to Scotland develops.”