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Gildernew outlines approach on Bluetongue incident to Assembly

19 February, 2008

Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has updated the Assembly on the steps that she has taken in recent days to deal with the bluetongue incident in County Antrim.

Outlining her approach in a statement to the Assembly the Minister said:

"Last Thursday, 14 February, we obtained a preliminary blood test result from one imported dairy heifer located on a farm in North Antrim that indicated the likely presence of the bluetongue virus. I took the decision to cull that animal on the same day, as a precautionary measure.

"The animal was one of a group of 21 dairy cattle imported to this farm. I took the decision on Sunday to cull the remaining 20 cattle in this imported group and all of their calves. We also culled a further three animals imported in another batch as a precautionary measure. The culling of these animals was completed on-farm yesterday and in total, 30 animals were culled."

The Minister also took the opportunity to emphasise that:

"The Department is under no obligation to pay compensation for imported animals that have been infected by, or exposed to, the bluetongue virus. I want to repeat that my Department and I are determined to do all we can to keep the North's Bluetongue-free disease status. This cull does not mean that the disease is circulating here. This is the only farm that has given cause for concern."

In conclusion the Minister turned to the danger of importing from bluetongue infected areas. She again re-iterated the message, as she has done several times recently calling on farmers not to import.

She commented that:

"I have already reminded farmers about vigilance in relation to Bluetongue on a staggering 23 occasions since my appointment. The Chief Veterinary Officer has written to all cattle and sheep owners in the North about this. DARD will again this week be running a series of advertisements reminding farmers to be vigilant." ENDS

The Minister's statement is available in full online at:

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