NFU urges caution over imports

Farming leaders have urged livestock producers to seriously consider the risks of importing livestock from bluetongue affected countries.

The NFU said that farmers must play their part in reducing the possibility of bluetongue circulating in the UK by showing caution over importing livestock from parts of the European Community where the virus is known to be circulating.

The union said that farmers must be extra vigilant after reports of further suspected cases of BTV1 and BTV8 in France and across continental Europe earlier this month.

NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh said: “There is no evidence that bluetongue is circulating in this country at the moment but we are now in a peak period for midge activity where conditions are ideal for the virus to spread and we’re seeing both BTV1 and BTV8 spreading in mainland Europe.

“I would urge all producers who feel they have to source animals from these areas to think long and hard about the risk and the effects that this terrible disease could have not only on their own stock but also on their neighbours and the whole industry. People must remember that although we have BTV8 vaccination we as yet don’t have a licensed BTV1 vaccine available to us in the UK.

“I would personally be happy if no one imported livestock from at-risk areas, particularly in this peak period.”

Mackintosh added that if producers choose to ignore the risks, they must be “absolutely certain” that animals have either been correctly vaccinated, and met all the appropriate conditions of the vaccine, or have been thoroughly tested to ensure they are not carrying the virus.

“This terrible illness can have a huge economic impact on farm businesses. It would be absolutely disastrous if farmers themselves were to import the virus and then it was to circulate,” he said.

Mackintosh urged all livestock farmers to remain vigilant for any signs of bluetongue in their animals and to report any signs of the illness to their local Animal Health office immediately.

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