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Minister reminds industry of risks of importing livestock

10 September, 2008

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA again reminded farmers, importers and those involved in transporting livestock of the risks involved in importing stock from outside the island of Ireland, particularly from Bluetongue Restricted Areas.

The minister made her comments following the announcement by DEFRA of a further case of imported animals testing positive for bluetongue. The latest case involves 18 cattle imported to the north of England from Germany. This follows three other cases over the last month involving cattle and sheep being imported to England from the Bluetongue Restricted Areas in Europe, which have later been found to have the bluetongue virus.

The minister said:

"The recent cases of farmers in England importing infected animals from the continent serve as a real reminder of the serious threat to our industry if individual farmers do not act responsibly. Potential importers should therefore continue to weigh up the risk and consider the cost to their own business - and the wider industry - if they bring in animals that may have been exposed to Bluetongue. I would further extend that warning to livestock transporters and remind them of the need to use only clean vehicles and if appropriate they may also need to apply insecticide."

"The coming weeks are the highest risk period for Bluetongue transmission because of the high levels of midge activity. However, our current veterinary risk assessment is that the greater risk to the North is through importation of infected animals.

"We have put in place measures to ensure that any imported susceptible animals are restricted, isolated and tested. While these measures give protection, there is always the risk that an imported animal could introduce infection before it is identified. Our portal inspectors remain at a high level of alert and closely scrutinise any incoming consignments to ensure they are fully compliant with our requirements. Those which are not will be re-exported. Farmers, importers and transporters need to act responsibly." ENDS

Farmers should remain vigilant for signs of disease and report any concerns to their own veterinarian or local Divisional Veterinary Office.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Full details on the import and export conditions for cattle and sheep including those attending shows in Britain is available on the DARD website or by telephoning 028 9052 0931.
  2. DARD reviews and updates its Veterinary Risk Assessment on an ongoing basis in light of new developments, to ensure the measures in place are appropriate and timely.
  3. DARD is continuing to work in partnership with key stakeholders to mitigate the threat of Bluetongue incursion.
  4. Industry stakeholders have also called for farmers to act responsibly.
  5. The Bluetongue leaflet which outlines the clinical signs of Bluetongue is available on the DARD website. A Question and Answer guide to Bluetongue is available on the DARD website at
  6. The Bluetongue virus is spread by midges which transfer the virus from animal to animal by biting them. The first detection of Bluetongue in the UK was reported on 22 September 2007.
  7. Advice on the treatment of animals and vehicles with insecticide is on the DARD website.

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