The National Sheep Association (NSA) has issued a warning to sheep farmers after the first case of bluetongue in sheep in the UK has been confirmed.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed the first case of the disease in a sheep on a site within the temporary control zone (TCZ) yesterday (Thursday, December 8).
The NSA is urging sheep farmers within the TCZ in Kent to be on “high alert” for signs of the disease.
The confirmed case in the sheep brings the total of animals identified with bluetongue serotype 3 to nine.
NSA chief executive, Phil Stocker, said: “It is disappointing, but not entirely surprising that BTV-3 has now been found in sheep.
“NSA understands the case was found in a mixed herd and identified through the routine surveillance testing currently being undertaken.
“BTV-3 is transmitted by biting midges which are most active between April and November. There has been no direct animal-to-animal spread of the disease in this current outbreak.
“NSA continues to urge any sheep farmers within the TCZ to of course comply with the movement restrictions in place, but also encourages those who might be traveling to the area or have stock heading off on winter keep to remain vigilant.”
Stocker said the disease can spread rapidly amongst ruminants and that it is therefore imperative that Defra is swiftly notified of any concerns.
Stocker said that, due to current restrictions within the TCZ, the NSA is asking that during this time Defra ease its concerns around the technicalities of linked holdings and CPH numbers, and instead “encourage anyone with concerns of Bluetongue amongst their animals to come forward as soon as they feel the need”.
“As there is no vaccine available for BTV–3, farmers are encouraged to maintain exceptional levels of good biosecurity, including ensuring needles are changed between any routine vaccinations,” he said.
“Although current cases are in one county only, NSA encourages sheep farmers across the country to take a look at the official Defra guidance.”
Strict rules on the movement of livestock from regions affected by bluetongue remain in place.
Farmers are reminded that animals imported from these regions must be accompanied by the relevant paperwork, to clearly show they meet certain conditions designed to reduce disease risk, e.g., correct vaccination.
NI and GB ruminants cannot be exported from a GB Assembly Centre to the European Union, or moved to NI until further notice.