Farmers should consider the risks to the UK’s disease status if they are thinking about importing sheep from any countries that carry a ‘high-risk’.
This is the message from the National Sheep Association (NSA), following the discovery of bluetongue in a consignment of four sheep imported from France.
Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, says: “The import and export of quality breeding animals is an important part of advancing sheep genetics and a valuable trade but farmers and traders involved should be aware of the risks.
“Livestock being imported from affected areas of Europe, as these four sheep were, must be effectively vaccinated against bluetongue before they’re sent off farm.
“In this situation something has gone wrong, which means potentially infective sheep were brought into the UK. Fortunately, APHA controls identified this and the animals have been destroyed. “
NSA advises anyone involved in this type of trade to research the high-risk diseases associated with different countries before choosing to import and, if it is felt necessary to bring animals in, consider taking steps beyond statutory controls to give real assurance.
Mr Stocker continues: “While in this case it is a legal requirement for stock to have been vaccinated for bluetongue prior to export, this case shows the system cannot be fully relied upon.
“While we recognise there are valuable bloodlines available in areas which are suffering from ongoing problems with several different strains of BTV, there is no benefit to anyone in spreading this disease.
“Animals arriving in the UK should be kept in isolation until APHA has completed tests, but even with this, it would be very hard to isolate them in such a way that midges are unable to get to them and potentially cause a major outbreak here in the UK.
"In addition to checking they have had their vaccinations, we would strongly advise demanding a PCR and serology blood test before they leave the departing farm and country”.