Farmers warned when importing animals from Bluetongue areas

Bluetongue can reduce milk yield, cause infertility and in the most severe cases is fatal for infected animals
Bluetongue can reduce milk yield, cause infertility and in the most severe cases is fatal for infected animals

The livestock sector has warned farmers to think carefully when importing animals from countries with known Bluetongue virus areas.

Ten organisations, which includes the NFU, British Veterinary Association and National Sheep Association, have joined forces to warn farmers about the devastating virus.

The call comes after the virus was found, following post-import testing, in imported animals for the third time in less than 12 months.

The infected animals have been slaughtered and no compensation was paid.

The midge-borne disease has been circulating around Europe with cases being reported in France, Switzerland, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italy.

A cross-industry statement said: “Bringing in diseases into the UK such as bluetongue would have severe consequences on the health and welfare of our livestock, which can result in widespread movement restrictions and costly surveillance testing.

“In addition to these costs, if there is spread into the national herd or flock, the country loses disease-free status, which can have a significant impact on trade.

“In order to continue to protect our herds and flocks, both locally, regionally and nationally, we must be vigilant when importing livestock from high risk areas, and perhaps even reconsider importing animals from areas where BTV is present.”

The organisations call for importers to be aware of the risks to the national herd when importing animals from Bluetongue affected areas, and to take measures such as pre-export testing to minimise risks.

They added: “Such tests should provide confirmation of the BTV and vaccination status of the animals. The movement of herds or flocks should then be restricted until the required post-import testing is carried out. If imported animals are found to be infected with bluetongue, they will be culled, with no compensation.

“Any premises found to have bluetongue infected animals will then be placed under strict animal movement restrictions for a number of weeks, while extensive surveillance is carried out.

The statement said: “Our message to all livestock keepers is to discuss any imports with their vets and consider choosing non-BTV restricted areas for the supply of stock.”

Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but the disease can have a serious impact on farming productivity by causing infertility in sheep, and reduced milk yields in dairy cattle.

Farmers have been urged toremain vigilant and report any suspicions to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).