Farmers encouraged to vaccinate

The National Beef association has warned that farmers who do not vaccinate against blue tongue (BTV) are playing Russian roulette with their livestock.

The NBA has praised livestock keepers in the current English BTV8 protection zone for rapidly vaccinating their livestock with the vaccine, and expressed hope that the same positive action would be adopted by other farmers as the protection zone spreads out over the rest of England and Wales.

The French authority has already reported new cases of BTV and it is expected to reach the UK in the next couple of months. Vaccination is the best tool available to livestock producers and the NBA is strongly encouraging livestock producers to contact their vets and order the vaccine now.

Kim Haywood, NBA director, said: "We know that farmers in TB areas would give their right hands to protect themselves from the disease in exchange for so little time and money and we are certain that every farmer in a BTV8 protection zone should be thinking the same."

The NBA is adamant that non-vaccinators risk much more than hassle or extra management cost because a visit from BTV8 infected midges later this year could crash entire businesses.

"BTV causes extensive cow infertility and premature births and semen recovery of infected bulls may never return," said Haywood.

"No business carrying breeding stock can afford to risk discovering infection on their farms and then finding their entire spring's calf crop has failed".

"On top of that surviving calves can be carriers and if finishing stock are infected as well, it will either cost a fortune in extra feed to bring them to slaughter weight or they will never recover enough to achieve their maximum value".

"And later this year we expect that breeders looking for replacements, or store stock for feeding, will require proof of vaccination before they purchase."

"It is obvious there are many ways farm income can be seriously, even mortally, damaged by BTV8 if there is no vaccination so anyone who chooses not to vaccinate at the first available opportunity must want to play Russian roulette with all the bullets in the chamber."