Keepers warned of importing European animals amid Bluetongue fears

Herd keepers in Northern Ireland have been told to consider the risks of importing animals from Continental Europe as Bluetongue closes in on Britain. 

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has warned farmers that imported animals found to be carrying the virus will be slaughtered with no compensation paid.

“Northern Ireland is more at risk from Bluetongue due to farmers importing animals than from windborne spread of the disease from mainland Europe,” said Robert Huey, Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer.

“If you choose to bring animals into Northern Ireland from a disease-free zone via a Bluetongue-infected zone, you must ensure you comply with all the conditions on the export health certificate. This should include the treatment of animals and vehicles with an approved insecticide and ensuring all parts of the health certificate for the imported animals have been met.”

The disease has recently been found in cattle in a previously disease-free area of northern France, less than 150km (93 miles) from the south coast of England.

“You should avoid importing animals from a Bluetongue-infected area,” added Huey. “In the unlikely event of this having to take place, the animals must have been vaccinated against Bluetongue prior to import to Northern Ireland. If the animals are pregnant then the vaccination must have been carried out before conception. Again, these conditions must be attested to by the certifying veterinarian on the health certificate.”

DAERA advised farmers not to become complacent to the risks of Bluetongue when importing livestock from Continental Europe. The department stressed the need to consider the potential consequences it could have on the Northern Irish industry.

The disease can infect all ruminants, but especially cattle and sheep. The virus can lead to reduced milk yield, sickness and reduced reproductive performance. In the more serious incidents, it can lead to death.

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