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Minister Gildernew Warns on Risk of Importing Bluetongue

07 January 2010

UK - Northern Irish agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew, has issued a reminder to farmers of the risk of importing cattle or sheep, which may have been exposed to the Bluetongue virus.

The Minister's message comes as the number of animals imported from mainland Europe increased significantly in the last four weeks.

The Minister said: "I continually urge those involved in the importation of cattle and sheep to think carefully and consider the potential consequences of bringing Bluetongue here.

“If Bluetongue is confirmed to be circulating it would have major economic significance, as large restriction zones would be declared. Exports of susceptible animals and animal products, including milk products to certain markets, would also be affected. It may also effect the movement of animals. It has been estimated that if Bluetongue became established here the costs to the industry would be around £25million each year which is a stark fact.

“Until now we have focused on BTV8 but the emergence of other strains in mainland Europe reinforces the message that we cannot be careful enough."

The Minister added: “We have been diligent so far in our efforts to keep the island of Ireland free from Bluetongue and we must not let our guard down. I understand the desire to import breeding cattle and sheep to improve the quality of stock, but farmers should weight that potential benefit against the risk posed by importing Bluetongue and should consider other safer options such as import of semen or embryos.

“Farmers who are tempted to take such risks should remember that any imported animal found at post-import test to be infected with Bluetongue virus, can be slaughtered as a disease control measure with no compensation being paid.”

The Minister concluded: “My message to keep Bluetongue out remains as relevant today as when it was first made. I am asking every farmer to heed my appeal and the appeals from farming unions. Do not put your own farm business – and your own industry - in jeopardy by importing livestock from Bluetongue affected areas.”

DARD continues to monitor the situation carefully and is in regular contact with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Dublin to ensure that measures throughout the island are appropriate and are sufficient to protect our bluetongue free status.

TheCattleSite News Desk



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