There have been calls for renewed vigilance and responsible sourcing after a number of cattle in a consignment from a French assembly centre tested positive for Bluetongue virus BTV-8.
The animals entered the UK destined for four farms in Scotland (Dumfries and Stirling) and England (Preston and Kendal) and the virus was detected in some of the them during routine post-movement tests.
The NFUS and British Veterinary Association (BVA) along with the British Cattle Veterinary Association, Sheep Veterinary Society and Goat Veterinary Society have stressed the importance of careful animal sourcing.
BVA senior vice-president Gudrun Ravetz said: “It is reassuring that the systems we have in place for post-movement testing have ensured the disease has been detected quickly, and that action has been taken.
“However, it is a grave and timely reminder to all livestock keepers of the importance of responsible sourcing of animals, and of fully understanding the potential disease risks of importing animals from areas where disease is known to be circulating.
“Farmers should always consult their local vet and act within their farm health plan when sourcing new animals.
“Bluetongue virus is spread via infected midges and with the mild weather we have been experiencing in the UK this autumn it is essential that farmers, vets and government agencies remain vigilant to the threat of disease spread.
“Signs of the disease include eye and nasal discharge, drooling, swelling around the head or mouth, lethargy and lameness. BTV-8 does not pose a threat to human health, but can have a negative impact on animal health for example by causing infertility or reduced milk yields.
Any suspicion of Bluetongue should be reported to the APHA immediately.
“Livestock keepers should also discuss options such as vaccination as one of the main methods of disease control.”
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick added: “The discovery of Bluetongue in imported cattle is a real concern for Scottish livestock keepers and underlines the need for vigilance, responsible sourcing and appropriate support and resources being directed to our veterinary surveillance system to monitor and stamp out the disease as soon as possible.
“BTV8 virus has been spreading in France for some time. It was unlikely that midge borne infection would reach Scotland this year and that importation always presented the greatest risk. In that regard, our surveillance systems have proven robust but the reality is that infected animals arrived in the country.
“Bluetongue is a notifiable disease and I remind all Scottish livestock keepers to seek veterinary advice on the disease and that suspected cases must be reported immediately to the divisional veterinary manager at the local Animal Plant Health Office.
“The risks presented by importing animals from affected areas, even when all rules are believed to have been followed, are now all too apparent.
“As a result, Scottish livestock keepers must now remind themselves of the symptoms of BTV-8 in cattle and sheep and keep a very close watch on their stock in the weeks ahead.”
Suspected cases must be reported immediately to the regional Field Services Offices in Scotland (www.gov.uk/government/organisations/animal-and-plant-health-agency/about/access-and-opening#field-services-offices-scotland).