Vigilance urged as Bluetongue virus is found in Germany

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says the discovery of Bluetongue in Germany is a warning to farmers in Northern Ireland to remain vigilant.

Union deputy president David Brown said the discovery of the virus was the first detection in Germany since 2012 and comes not long after a heifer, imported into Northern Ireland in December past, tested positive for the disease.

He said: “Fortunately, our import testing protocols are robust and the animal was identified early and culled. The discovery of Bluetongue in Germany is a timely reminder to farmers not to become complacent. I would encourage farmers to regularly inspect their animals for Bluetongue symptoms and maintain good biosecurity.”

The German authorities have declared a 150 km zone and exports from that region will need to be vaccinated or tested to demonstrate natural immunity before they leave the zone. DAERA routinely test all cattle imported from mainland Europe to ensure the Bluetongue virus is not present and for evidence of vaccination.

UFU deputy president David Brown says if the disease were to gain a foothold, it could come with a significant price tag.

“It could cost the livestock industry over £25 million per year. We cannot afford to be relaxed when it comes to Bluetongue,” he said.

The UFU says farmers must remain vigilant and ensure they source animals responsibly.

Mr Brown continued: “The best way to do this is not import animals from high-risk Bluetongue areas. However, if farmers must import from a Bluetongue affected region, they should seek additional guarantees from the seller such as requesting pre-export testing to prove effective immunity to the virus.”

Bluetongue was detected in a heifer imported into Northern Ireland from France six weeks ago.

At the time Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) chief veterinary officer Robert Huey said that the detection is an example of the robust disease surveillance procedures that are in place.

He added: “The identification offers another timely reminder to farmers for the need to think carefully before importing susceptible animals from Bluetongue affected areas.

“It is vitally important that we keep Bluetongue out. The risk is not only to themselves but to the whole industry as the impacts on trade could be catastrophic as a result.

“If farmers feel they must import from Bluetongue-affected countries they should consider what additional guarantees the seller can provide such as requesting a pre-export test to be carried out to prove effective immunity to the Bluetongue virus.”