Advice to herd and flock keepers

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The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) is reminding farmers here to be vigilant for the signs of Bluetongue virus in sheep and cattle.

This message comes following the recent confirmation of Bluetongue serotype 8 (BTV-8) in Central France. BTV-8 was involved in the previous outbreak of bluetongue in Northern Europe, but has not been reported in the EU since 2011.

Whilst the risk to Northern Ireland remains low at present; farmers here have an important role to play to help keep the disease out. The most likely route of disease entry is through the import of infected animals or germplasm (semen or ova), especially imports from France. Robert Huey, the Chief Veterinary Officer has this message for livestock keepers and importers: “I continually urge those involved in importing cattle and sheep to think carefully about where they are sourcing animals and consider the potential consequences of bringing bluetongue here. Bluetongue can have significant economic impacts in terms of on-farm losses due to death, sickness and reduced productivity. There are also losses to export revenue as live exports are banned from affected areas.

“Please be vigilant for the signs of bluetongue, as outlined on the DARD website, and report any suspicions to your local Divisional Veterinary Office.”

As a precautionary measure, all susceptible animals imported here from anywhere in France must be kept housed and isolated until they have been tested for bluetongue and the Department is satisfied that they do not present a risk. Anyone considering an import from France should ensure it is accompanied by certification giving the relevant bluetongue guarantees. It is the responsibility of any importer to reinforce this with the exporter.

The Department will continue to keep this position under review as further information on the disease situation in France becomes clear.

Further information on bluetongue can be obtained from the DARD website at: http://www.dardni.gov.uk/bluetongue-clinical-signs.htm; http://www.dardni.gov.uk/bluetongue-questions-and-answers.htm or by contacting your local Divisional Veterinary Office on 0300 200 7840.