Farmers in Northern Ireland are being urged by the Minister for Agriculture, Michelle McIlveen to remain vigilant and avoid the risk of importing potentially Bluetongue infected stock.

Minister McIlveen said that it is vitally important that we continue to keep Bluetongue out.

"The main risk to Northern Ireland continues to be the import of infected animals or germplasm (semen or ova), particularly in light of the spread of the disease on the continent.

"Our farmers need to avoid bringing animals here that may have been exposed to infection. This means they should not import animals from countries affected by Bluetongue."

She said that as the temperature starts to increase so does the risk from the disease, with the widespread circulation of midges.

"Farmers need to be aware of this risk and should not be complacent. If they import infected stock the risk is not only to themselves but to the whole industry as trade can be badly affected as a result."

Anyone who does take a risk faces the possibility that if the imported animals are found to be infected with Bluetongue, they will be slaughtered and no compensation will be paid.”

If herd/flock owners ignore this advice and import animals from countries where Bluetongue is present all susceptible, imported animals will have to be kept housed and isolated until they have been tested for Bluetongue and DAERA is satisfied that they do not present a risk.

The Department continues to work closely with the industry stakeholders, DEFRA, the other devolved administrations and with their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland to mitigate the threat from the disease.

Animal keepers in Northern Ireland are not permitted to vaccinate their animals against Bluetongue.

However, if the disease was confirmed in Northern Ireland, a veterinary risk assessment would be carried out and a licence may be issued to permit vaccination, according to DAERA.

Vaccination against one strain of Bluetongue virus does not give protection against any other strain, it said.