Ruminant Health & Welfare (RH&W) and the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) have urged vigilance after a case of bluetongue virus (BTV) was confirmed in a single cow in Kent.

The cow was culled to reduce the risk of onward disease transmission.

RH&W said farmers need to remain “extremely vigilant” to the disease and need to follow the legislations on restrictions of animal movements.

Movements of ruminant animals, including cattle and sheep, from Great Britain to Northern Ireland have been suspended following the confirmation of the case.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) confirmed that moves of all ruminants and their germinal products – such as semen and embryos – from the island of Great Britain to Northern Ireland have been temporarily suspended and are now not eligible for certification.

FUW deputy head of policy, Dr Hazel Wright, said early detection of the case has allowed the appropriate measures to be put in place to minimise the risk of disease transmission and offer some protection to UK farmers.

However, the union said farmers must remain extremely vigilant and consider discussing the best options for protecting their stock with their vet.

“Whilst this virus does not affect people or food safety, understanding the risks associated with buying in stock is imperative as the impact of this disease on livestock can be extremely variable,” she said.

“Some animals will show no clinical signs of infection whilst mortality can occur in severe cases. BTV can spread rapidly amongst ruminants and can cause significant production losses. 

“Alongside purchasing livestock from responsible sources, surveillance is the best way to combat the spread of this disease and we are therefore urging members to be vigilant and report any suspicions of disease immediately.”

Bluetongue vigilance

BTV is a viral disease transmitted by biting midges, which affects all ruminants (sheep, cattle and goats) and camelids (llamas and alpacas).  

RH&W said farmers need to beware when buying animals, take actions to report any signs and always remain vigilant.

“Buyer beware, source animals from Europe responsibly and request pre-movement testing,” it said.

“Take action, prioritise biosecurity and report any suspicious clinical signs. Vigilance is key, monitor livestock closely.”

The predisposing risks for this disease spreading include, infected midges being carried over from infected areas by the wind, infected animals, blood, or germinal products (semen, ova and embryos), being imported from countries where bluetongue is prevalent.  

“With this in mind, it is paramount that legislation is followed, and farmers and vets take action and remain extremely vigilant,” RH&W said.

“Farmers must discuss the risks of importing stock from BTV affected countries, and pre movement testing, with their vet to mitigate risks and avoid buying in or spreading this vector borne disease.”