Concern as Bluetongue found in NI, says UFU

Friday, 7 December, 2018

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says the discovery of Bluetongue in a heifer imported from France to Northern Ireland is a serious concern for farmers. UFU deputy president, David Brown said, “Fortunately, officials identified the animal early and this shows that our post import testing protocols are robust and working well. However, it also clearly shows the potential risk to the Northern Ireland livestock sector when importing animals from high-risk areas.”

The imported animal has been culled and no compensation paid to the importer. The discovery of Bluetongue in this imported animal does not affect Northern Ireland’s official Bluetongue free status and will not have an impact on domestic or international trade.

Mr Brown says if the disease were to gain a foothold, it could cost the industry over £25 million per year. “We cannot afford to become complacent when it comes to Bluetongue. Farmers must remain vigilant and ensure they source animals responsibly. The best way to do this – do not import animals from high-risk Bluetongue areas entirely. However, if you must import from a Bluetongue affected region, seek additional guarantees from the seller such as requesting pre-export testing to prove effective immunity to the virus,” he said.

This is the third case of Bluetongue to reach the UK this year in imported animals. The virus does not pose a threat to human health but it can have a serious impact on animal health. Signs of the disease in livestock include eye and nasal discharge, drooling, swelling around the head or mouth, lethargy and lameness and a high mortality rate.

“There has never been an outbreak of Bluetongue in Northern Ireland and everyone wants it to keep it that way. It is reassuring the disease was detected quickly and swift action taken,” said Mr Brown.

Bluetongue is a notifiable disease and farmers should report any concerns immediately to DAERA. The UFU continues to monitor the situation.