AN animal health expert in Northumberland has warned that the poor take-up of bluetongue vaccine in the county is potentially devastating for the region.
Northumberland Animal Health Divisional Veterinary Manager Peter Gray said yesterday that take-up of the vaccine has been “depressingly low”.
Northumberland County Council and Animal Health are now urging those farmers in the county who have not already vaccinated their livestock against the disease to do so as soon as possible.
With eight reported cases of infectious imported animals in the UK and over 15,000 cases of bluetongue having been reported in France so far this year the council warned that the potentially devastating threat to livestock is as real as ever.
Mr Gray said: “Take-up of the bluetongue vaccine in Northumberland has, so far, been depressingly low. One of the key reasons for the poor use of bluetongue vaccine appears to be ill-founded complacency about the high ongoing risk posed by the disease, made worse by unsubstantiated rumours about the safety of the vaccine.
“The risk to farmers’ livestock and livelihood from this disease far outweighs any perceived risk associated with vaccination. Vaccination is the only effective way to protect against bluetongue.
“It is also important that farmers keep it in mind when inspecting their stock.”
Barry Taylor, trading standards team manager at Northumberland County Council advises that: “The recent cases of farmers in England importing infected animals from the continent serve as a reminder of the serious threat to our industry if individual farmers do not act responsibly.”
And Coun Lesley Rickerby, executive member for community services said: “I would urge all farmers to play their part in keeping bluetongue out of Northumberland and vaccinate their animals at the earliest opportunity.
“This is a very cost effective insurance for farmers to protect their livestock – so don’t hesitate, vaccinate.”
Malcolm Corbett, North East livestock representative for the National Farmers’ Union, said rumours that the vaccine could create fertility issues for animals were wide of the mark.
He said: “We can definitely say that any rumours of health issues with the vaccine are just nonsense. We have had ample evidence from scientists that the vaccine is perfectly safe.
“I think some farmers may also be storing up the vaccine to use next year as well.
“The vaccination programme in the rest of the country has definitely worked and we owe farmers in the rest of the country and Defra a big thank you.
“I’ve vaccinated all my animals but I’m not going to start telling other farmers what to do, that’s up to them.”
Anyone suspecting bluetongue must report it to the Animal Health Office on (0191) 2295400.
The risk to livestock and livelihood from this disease far outweighs any perceived risk associated with vaccination.