The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has warned that a bluetongue outbreak in Northern Ireland could cost the livestock sector over £25 million per year.

Concerns were raised yesterday, December 6, after the disease was discovered in an animal imported from France.

Although this isolated case does not affect Northern Ireland’s official bluetongue-free status, and will not have an impact on trade, the UFU says the discovery is still a “serious concern for farmers”.

Fortunately, officials identified the animal early and this shows our post-import testing protocols are robust and working well.

According to David Brown, deputy president of the union, the case “clearly shows the potential risk to the Northern Ireland livestock sector when importing animals from high-risk areas”.

Brown warned that, if the disease were to get a foothold in Northern Ireland, it would cost the industry there more than £25 million per year.

“We cannot afford to become complacent when it comes to bluetongue. Farmers must remain vigilant and ensure they source animals responsibly,” he added.

The affected animal, a heifer, has been culled, with no compensation paid to the importer.

Brown advised farmers that the best way to avoid cases of the disease is to not import from regions that are affected with it.

“However, if you must import from a bluetongue-affected region, seek additional guarantees from the seller, such as requesting pre-export testing to prove effective immunity to the virus,” he added.

This has been the third case of bluetongue in an imported animal in the UK this year.