Dutch farmer shares bluetongue knowledge

A Dutch farmer will be touring livestock markets in England and Wales in February and March to share his knowledge on dealing with bluetongue.

Jakob Pustjens, a livestock producer from Nederweert in the south of The Netherlands, will meet fellow farmers face-to-face, starting in Welshpool on 9 February, to talk about the impact of the disease in his home country.

Pustjens said: "As a farmer you never think that bluetongue will affect you, until it does. Unfortunately, by the time that livestock show visible signs of the disease, it's already too late to prevent it.

"I knew many farmers in the north of The Netherlands who thought that the disease would be confined to the south and would not reach them. It did and they were left counting the cost."

The Dutchman, who manages his family's farm of 100 Holstein Friesian dairy cows and 90 heifers, will also be visiting Shrewsbury and Worcester on his travels chatting to farmers on his observations of the virus.

"My experience of the disease on our own farm started in the autumn of 2007, very soon after neighbouring herds began having problems. Over 20% of our cows had problems with their feet and subsequently difficulty in walking, milk yields dropped and cows were more difficult to get back in calf. Although I believe that we got off very lightly compared with many other farms in my region, the disease still cost us €10,000-€15,000," added Pustjens.

It is hoped that the talks, organised by Merial Animal Health and supported by the Livestock Auctioneers' Association, will give farmers advice on how to deal with the disease, such as vaccinating as soon as possible.

Livestock Auctioneers' Association executive secretary Chris Dodds said: "Bluetongue is a major concern to all of us, so any initiative that provides clear information and facts, based on experience, is to be welcomed and encouraged."

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