Farms urged to sign up for bluetongue jabs
ONLY half the required number of bluetongue vaccine will be available when vaccinations begin next week, farmers’ leaders warned last night.
Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has announced that vaccination against the deadly disease will begin in South-East Wales a week today, subject to the delivery of the vaccine and there being no “unforeseen developments” in the spread of the disease.
Under EU regulations vaccination can only take place in a protection zone and the Welsh Assembly Government will also declare the area, currently a restricted zone, a protection zone.
Wales has secured 2.5 million doses of the vaccine and has joined with DEFRA in tendering for a further five million doses for use in Wales but Gwilym Vaughan, president of the Farmers’ Union of Wales, said far more was needed.
“Around 7.5 million doses of the vaccine have so far been ordered, ” he added.
“But I expect that double that number – around 15 million doses – will be required across Wales.”
Mr Vaughan added: “The start of vaccination is a very good thing and I expect that there will be a rush as soon as it becomes available at the start of June. We need to protect our livestock from this disease and this is the only tool we have got.
“It will take three weeks before any vaccine becomes effective so farmers need to sign up for it as soon as they can. It is important that farmers across Wales show their intent to sign up for the vaccine, so that the vets can contact the wholesalers.
“There is not a huge cost involved and I don’t think finance will be an issue. This is the start of what is going to be a long-haul offensive against the disease.”
Wales’ chief veterinary officer Dr Christianne Glossop added: “The message to the industry is clear: don’t hesitate, vaccinate.
“I would ask all livestock keepers, both in and out of the zone, to discuss vaccination with their vets now, and to register their interest in vaccine as soon as possible.
“They also need to maintain high levels of vigilance. If they have any queries they should contact their local animal health office. Animals can only be moved out of the protection zone if they are vaccinated or naturally immune,” she added.
“We are also currently reviewing the situation with regards to the possible movement of animals out of the PZ to slaughter. A decision will be made on this matter over the next few days. ”
Defra said the first batch of one million doses of the vaccine will be available in Wales’ protection zone and more doses will become available at intervals over the summer.
It has made the announcement now to allow farmers to plan ahead and order vaccine so that they can protect their stock from the deadly disease that is spread by midges “at the earliest opportunity”.
And it is encouraging farmers to order vaccine available in 20ml and 50ml bottles, in advance through their vet.
Dai Davies, president of the National Farmers Union Cymru, has written to all members in the newly-designated protection zone area, urging them to vaccinate animals.
He said: “Whilst I appreciate it is an added cost at a time when the livestock sectors can ill-afford it, I regard it as a small price to pay for the protection and insurance against Btv8 it will provide us as individual farmers.
“The alternative is unthinkable. I don’t think we can afford not to vaccinate.
“There is no Government compensation for any losses sustained due to bluetongue and our fate is largely in our own hands as far as this disease is concerned.”