Farmers urged to be vigilant over latest cattle virus scare.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

LOCAL farmers are being urged to remain vigilant following the detection of bluetongue virus.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said the virus was found in cattle imported from France to Great Britain.

Bluetongue is a virus spread by midges and it affects animals such as cattle, goats, deer and sheep but does not affect humans.

Speaking about the virus threat, Rathfriland Farmer Barclay Bell and President of the Ulster Farmers Union urged caution.

"I would like to say that it is nothing to get too alarmed about especially if farmers take sensible precautions. However, we are asking farmers to remain vigilant.

"The virus can have a serious impact on animal health causing reduced milk yields, infertility and even death." The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in Great Britain successfully picked up the infected animals through the robust post-import testing regime earlier this month. The animals were destined for farms in England and Scotland.

APHA is working closely with the livestock keepers affected to ensure that swift action is taken to prevent the spread of the disease with movement restrictions at affected premises, targeted surveillance and the humane culling of animals where necessary.

The UK remains officially bluetongue free and exports are not affected.

Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but can have a severe impact on affected farms.

Barclay added that the union and farmers have been successful over the years to keep the virus out of Northern Ireland and they hope to keep it that way.

"If farmers notice any signs of the disease such as eye and nasal discharge, drooling, swelling around the head or mouth, lethargy and lameness, they should report it immediately to DAERA. This disease is a reminder to all livestock keepers of the importance of responsibly sourcing animals and to be fully aware of the potential risks when importing animals."

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's chief veterinary officer, Robert Huey is warning all herd and flock keepers to source animals responsibly and consider carefully the risks associated with sourcing animals from continental Europe.

Mr Huey said: "Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but can have a severe impact on affected farms.

"While I am pleased that the robust disease surveillance procedures in operation across the UK have worked, the identification offers a timely reminder to farmers for the need to remain vigilant and of the risks of importing animals from disease-affected areas into their herds.

"It is vitally important that we continue to keep bluetongue out. The main risk to Northern Ireland continues to be the import of infected animals or germplasm [semen or ova]. Our farmers need to avoid bringing animals here that may have been exposed to infection.

"Farmers should consider the potentially adverse consequences of importing animals from or transiting through bluetongue-affected countries or zones.

"The risk is not only to themselves but to the whole industry as trade can be badly affected as a result.

"Anyone who does take a risk, faces the possibility that if the imported animals are subsequently found to be infected with bluetongue, they will be slaughtered and no compensation will be paid."


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