There are potentially around 1,000 cattle and sheep in NI to be tested for Bluetongue Virus (BTV-3), following confirmation of a single case in a cow in Kent.
In response to the Kent outbreak, DAERA has said it is “taking immediate action” to trace all movements of cattle and sheep into NI from Britain since 1 October.
Official figures show that 557 cattle were imported from Britain last month, along with 238 breeding and store sheep. The cattle import figure for October is the highest monthly total to date in 2023. The data for November is not available, although the strike by DAERA veterinary service in the first week of the month will have disrupted trade flows.
Farmers who have imported cattle and sheep must keep these animals isolated and will be contacted by their local Divisional Veterinary Office (DVO) to arrange testing.
Bluetongue is a notifiable disease which is transmitted by midges, and only ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats are affected. The case in a single cow on a Kent farm is the first in the UK for 16 years.
The animal was culled and DEFRA has placed a 10km control zone around the farm.
To help prevent disease spread, all movement of ruminant animals, semen and embryos from Britain into NI have been temporarily suspended.
That suspension in semen imports coincides with the start of the main breeding season for autumn-calving dairy herds. However, sources in the trade maintain that it won’t cause any major disruption in the short-term, as stocks have already been imported well in advance.
Any farmers who suspect the disease should immediately contact their private vet and DAERA via the Department’s helpline on 0300-200 784, or by contacting their local DVO.
For more information, see pages 12 and 13.