First vaccinations for bluetongue

The first vaccinations against the animal disease bluetongue are to take place later on a farm in Norfolk.

Vets and farmers' leaders have welcomed the speed with which a vaccine has been created, as the process can sometimes take several years to complete.

The non-contagious virus, spread by midges, was first reported in Britain last year. Since then, 127 premises have been infected.

Vaccination will begin on cattle at Bixley Farms in Norfolk on Thursday morning.

The programme will then roll-out across the bluetongue high risk protection zones in England, which include East Anglia and a large part of the South East.

The BBC spoke to Tim Cane, farm manager at Bixley Farms. He said: "Bluetongue is a particularly horrific disease and whether you're a smallholder with a few animals or a farmer with a large commercial enterprise it's our duty to ensure that as many sheep and cattle in the protection zone as possible are vaccinated to help prevent the disease from spreading."

The Joint Action against Bluetongue group said: "We are delighted Intervet has been able to provide vaccine more quickly than was initially thought and we are very grateful for their efforts which have resulted in this early delivery date. This should put livestock keepers in a very good position to protect their livestock before midge activity increases as the weather gets warmer."

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union, praised the government and the vaccine company for making the product available so quickly.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, said: "The success of our control and vaccination strategy will ultimately depend on the industry itself, and I strongly support the industry-led campaign to promote vaccination. The message to animal keepers is clear, don't hesitate, vaccinate."

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