Despite a massive uptake of bluetongue vaccine from farmers in the south and east of England, farmers in other areas shouldn’t be complacent and believe they need not protect their own stock.

Speaking at last week’s Sheep Event 2008, Malvern, NSA chief executive Peter Morris said bluetongue was still the biggest single disease risk facing the industry this year and while early vaccination campaigns had been successful, they wouldn’t have created a sufficient firewall to prevent the disease spreading to northern counties.

“The vaccination campaign so far has been a phenomonal success, with, we believe, more than 85% of stock in the protection zone vaccinated against the disease. This is an unprecendented level of vaccination, particularly bearing in mind that it was a voluntary campaign.

“But we need to look closely at what is now happening in France and heed the warning their experience is giving us. The Burgundy region of France has seen several hundred cases in the past two weeks and farmers there are living in fear of the disease.”

This experience should be more than enough to kickstart UK farmers into action, he warned. “There will always be a few who try to avoid the added costs of vaccinating. But they must remember it is not only their own stock they are protecting. They are helping the whole of the industry by limiting the chance of the disease spreading to new areas.

“Everyone must be extremely grateful for the sacrifices made by farmers in the south and east of England who suffered losses last year due to movement restrictions. At the moment we are still in a strong position in terms of vaccination, but it must still be a top priority for those in areas where vaccine isn’t yet available,” he added.