Livestock farmers in Wales have been urged to make immediate plans to vaccinate their livestock against bluetongue.

Farners Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan said the disease would have swept across the industry if farmers in southern and eastern England had not vaccinated last year.

But despite being free of the disease in 2008, the arrival of infected midges into Wales was a significant risk, he said.

“Movements from France are now effectively banned and our call for a voluntary import ban on movements from the continent stands, as does our call for a full ban on imports from high risk areas.

“It should not be forgotten that three-quarters of cases in the UK over the past 18 months have come from midges being blown over from mainland Europe.

“These could easily be blown into the UK in 2009 from infected countries nearby.

“Failure to vaccinate will put our own and our neighbours’ businesses at risk and prolong the effect of the disease.”

Mr Vaughan said farmers planning to vaccinate in the spring should be making the necessary arrangements with their vets as soon as possible.

Farmers who vaccinated last year would need to revaccinate this year, he added.

His comments came after an FUW survey revealed nearly 80% of Welsh livestock farmers had not vaccinated against the disease, but more than 70% planned to do so in the spring.