With the recent discovery of the Bluetongue virus in an animal in Germany, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) have urged farmers to stay vigilant.
They say that the recent Bluetongue case should serve as a warning to farmers of the dangers, especially with the recent Bluetongue detection in an Imported heifer from France to Northern Ireland in recent times, as reported by us here.
“This is the first detection of Bluetongue in Germany since 2012 and comes not long after a heifer, imported to Northern Ireland in December, tested positive for the disease.” said UFU deputy president David Brown.
Mr. Brown said that although protocols in place during Import testing are robust, farmers should still check their livestock regularly for symptoms.
“Fortunately, our import testing protocols are robust and animal was identified early and culled. The discovery of Bluetongue in Germany is a timely reminder to farmers not to become complacent.” He said.
“I would encourage farmers to regularly inspect their animals for Bluetongue symptoms and maintain good biosecurity,” he added.
A 150km zone has been declared by German authorities, with exports from the region needing to be vaccinated or tested to demonstrate natural immunity before they leave the zone. DAERA routinely test all cattle imported from mainland Europe to ensure the Bluetongue virus is not present and for evidence of vaccination.
UFU deputy president David Brown warned that if the disease were to gain a foothold, it could come result in significant financial losses.
“It could cost the industry over £25 million per year. We cannot afford to be relaxed when it comes to Bluetongue,” he stressed.
The UFU deputy president then reiterated the need for farmers to remain vigilant and exercise caution when importing animals.
"The best way to do this – do not import animals from high-risk Bluetongue areas. 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 concluded.
What is Bluetongue?
Bluetongue is a notifiable disease under the EU and Irish National legislation. The disease is known to affect not only cattle but also sheep, deer and goats.
The disease is a viral one, transmitted by biting midges from the culicoides species. The main time of infection is between the months of April and November when midges are most active. The disease itself is seasonal, occurring anytime between July and November.The infection is transmitted via midges when one uninfected midge takes a blood sample from an infected animal. The virus then develops inside the insect, providing environmental conditions such as temperature are favourable.
At least 8 midge species in Ireland are potential vectors for Bluetongue, according to the Department of Agriculture, with Serotype-8 the greatest concern due to its close proximity to France. The midge that transmits this Serotype-8 is also found in Ireland.
There are many telltale signs to identify if your animal is infected, which are listed below. Many infected animals display zero symptoms and usually, it is one or two herd/flock members that are infected. Symptoms slightly differ between bovine and ovine species, which you can see below.
Signs in Cattle:
Skin has red appearance.
Frothing from mouth.
Sores and crusts on mouth, face and teats.
Loss of appetite.
Swelling of the tongue-which causes breathing issues
Signs in Sheep:
Discolouration and swelling of tongue.
Swelling of neck & head.
The Department of Agriculture has warned that the virus may enter the Country via a number of ways. This includes animal importation, midges, and the importation of animal products.
Treatment and Prevention -
There are quite a few preventative measures which can be taken by farmers in order to prevent infection.
- Unless it is absolutely necessary, it is advised to avoid importing animals from Bluetongue restricted areas in Europe, such as France.
- If importing, source from reliable sources only.
- Ensure animals are not BT infected before departing.
- Do not purchase or accept animals which have been recently imported without identifying their origin and health status.
- Keep imported animals isolated and indoors until they have received negative test status.
- Report any suspected cases.
NOTE - If you suspect a case of Bluetongue on your farm, it is advised to contact your veterinary practitioner or the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.