The Department of Agriculture is planning on establishing a network of six Regional Veterinary Laboratory (RVL) carcase collection points, in an attempt to improve farmers’ access to the service.

The plan is intended to allow the vast majority of farmers access to an RVL or a collection point within an hours’ drive, Seamus Fagan, research officer at Athlone RVL, said at the Teagasc national sheep conference on Tuesday.

The collection points are planned for east Donegal, Limerick, west Dublin, Cavan, south Mayo, and south Kerry.

“You can bring your dead animals there and we will transport them to one of the four labs – Cork and Limerick will amalgamate – so hopefully they will cover the big sheep areas a lot better,” Fagan stated.

Bluetongue warning

The RVL officer also warned farmers to be aware of the clinical signs of bluetongue, a virus which has “completely devastated” flocks in the Netherlands and which has been detected in England.

To-date, there have been 55 cases identified on 32 premises in England, with temporary control zones in place in parts of Kent and Norfolk.

“It’s a big warning and we all have a duty to educate ourselves. We have a few months because midges carry bluetongue virus but we probably won’t see them for three, four, five months. If it does come in, the earlier we can get notice of it, the better chance we have of controlling in.”

In sheep, symptoms include swelling of head or neck, lameness, fever, drooling, haemorrhages on the skin and other tissues, respiratory problems and high mortality.