Sheep and cattle producers nationally are being urged by DEFRA to vaccinate their stock before it’s too late, as Britain remains on high alert for Bluetongue.
With a readily available supply of vaccines, Gareth Hateley, British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) senior vice president, advises farmers to discuss their disease risk situation with a vet as soon as possible.
“There is currently a high risk of an incursion of infected midges arriving in Britain” says Mr Hateley. “If the virus appears in Britain again, there would be significant implications for trade and animal welfare. So I recommend farmers take all the available steps to try and prevent the disease, rather than have to deal with an outbreak once it occurs”.
As it is impossible to guarantee that stock will not get bitten by infected midges, MSD Animal Health technical manager John Atkinson gives weight to using a vaccine which is proven to control bluetongue.
“It is so important that all animals at risk have the necessary level of immunity to prevent the disease breaking out”, says Mr Atkinson, “and vaccination is the single most effective action you can take to protect your cattle and sheep”.
The success of a vaccination programme is reliant on a high proportion of cattle and sheep farmers vaccinating their stock, particularly across southern England.
“Widespread vaccination helped to prevent bluetongue gaining a foothold in Britain the last time the disease threatened our shores back in 2007 and 2008”, continues Mr Atkinson, “It’s just not worth the risk of not vaccinating”.
The results of a recent survey analysing bulk milk samples for antibodies to BTV8 taken from 200 dairy herds should not be interpreted as an indication that seropositive herds will be immune to the disease this time around.
“Each positive bulk milk result could have been caused by just one or only a few animals in the herd having antibodies. The herds are likely to have little immunity if the cattle remain unvaccinated,” Mr Hateley warns.
“What we do know is that the most effective control measure against BTV8 is vaccination, so we are urging farmers to talk to their vet as soon as possible”.