Bluetongue: Advice to herd and flock keepers who import animals

Date published: 31 May 2017

Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Robert J Huey is warning herd and flock keepers to source animals responsibly and consider carefully the risks associated with sourcing animals from Continental Europe where the area affected by the disease has been expanding with outbreaks occurring in previously disease free areas of Northern France.

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The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is reminding farmers that imported animals subsequently found to be infected with Bluetongue will be slaughtered and no compensation will be paid.

Mr Huey said: “Northern Ireland is more at risk from Bluetongue due to farmers importing animals than from windborne spread of the disease from mainland Europe.

“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. 

“You should avoid importing animals from a Bluetongue infected area. 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.”

Farmers should not be complacent to the risks of Bluetongue virus when importing livestock from Continental Europe. It is vitally important to the industry in Northern Ireland that farmers consider the potentially adverse consequences of importing animals from or transiting through Bluetongue affected countries or zones.

Further information on Bluetongue, including clinical signs and questions and answers can be obtained from the DAERA Website or by contacting your local DAERA Direct Office on 0300 200 7840.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Bluetongue virus is spread by midges which transfer the virus from animal to animal by biting them or by infected germplasm (semen or ova).
  2. Bluetongue affects all ruminants, such as cattle, goats, deer and sheep. Clinical signs can vary by species – although symptoms are generally more severe in sheep. Symptoms include fever, swelling of the head and neck, lameness, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and eyes, drooling and there is often a high mortality rate. Generally cattle and goats are less severely affected but cattle and goats, which appear healthy, can carry high levels of the virus and provide a source of further infection.
  3. Imported animals that are found to be infected with bluetongue will be slaughtered and no compensation is payable.
  4. Animal keepers in Northern Ireland are not permitted to vaccinate their animals against bluetongue. However, if bluetongue was confirmed in Northern Ireland, a veterinary risk assessment would be carried out and a licence may be issued to permit vaccination. Vaccination against one strain of Bluetongue virus does not give protection against any other strain.
  5. DAERA reviews and updates its Veterinary Risk Assessment on an ongoing basis in light of new developments, to ensure the measures in place are appropriate and timely.
  6. All media enquiries to DAERA Press Office or tel: 028 9052 4619.
  7. Follow us on Twitter.

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