Vigilance urged for signs of Bluetongue

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union is urging farmers to be vigilant following confirmation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Scottish government that a number of cattle recently imported from France have tested positive for Bluetongue.

UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt says the virus does not pose a threat to human health but it can have a serious impact on animal health causing reduced milk yields, infertility, and even death.

“We have done well over the years to keep the Bluetongue virus out of Northern Ireland and we want to keep it that way. Farmers must remain vigilant and if they notice any signs of the disease, such as, eye and nasal discharge, drooling, swelling around the head or mouth, lethargy and lameness, report it immediately to DAERA.”

The infected cattle entered the UK earlier this month and were destined for farms in England and Scotland. The virus was detected during routine post-movement testing.

Mr Chestnutt said: “It is reassuring that the systems in place detected the disease quickly and swift action was taken. It is a reminder to all livestock keepers of the importance of responsibly sourcing animals and to be fully aware of the potential risks when importing animals.”

Meanwhile, The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has called for renewed vigilance and responsible sourcing in light of the Bluetongue scare.

Commenting, BVA Senior Vice President Gudrun Ravetz said: “It is reassuring that the systems we have in place for post-movement testing have ensured the disease has been detected quickly, and that action has been taken.

“However, it is a grave and timely reminder to all livestock keepers of the importance of responsible sourcing of animals, and of fully understanding the potential disease risks of importing animals from areas where disease is known to be circulating.

“Farmers should always consult their local vet and act within their farm health plan when sourcing new animals.

“Bluetongue virus is spread via infected midges and with the mild weather we have been experiencing in the UK this autumn it is essential that farmers, vets and government agencies remain vigilant to the threat of disease spread.

“Signs of the disease include eye and nasal discharge, drooling, swelling around the head or mouth, lethargy and lameness. BTV-8 does not pose a threat to human health, but can have a negative impact on animal health for example by causing infertility or reduced milk yields.

“Any suspicion of Bluetongue should be reported to the relevant authorities immediately. Livestock keepers should also discuss options such as vaccination as one of the main methods of disease control.”