Farmers have been urged to vaccinate their livestock against bluetongue as soon as possible after it emerged thousands of French farms have tested positive for the disease this summer.

Latest reports from the continent revealed 2242 premises had been infected with the BTV8 strain of the disease due to the virus circulating this year.

A further 6000 infected premises had been found, but were attributed to spread during 2007.

Most of the outbreaks of the strain, which were first detected on 30 May, were in the central region of France.

However the French Department of Animal Health said some cases of the disease had occurred on the north west coast, around Calais.

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A further 14 farms in the south west of the country had tested positive for the BTV1 strain of the disease.

Peter Morris, National Sheep Association chief executive, said farmers in the protection zone should vaccinate as soon as possible to avoid the “havoc” the disease has wrecked on France.

“This is a mirror-image of what happened last year,” he said.

“Luckily, we are in a better position this year because we have been effective in rolling out a vaccine.

“Farmers should vaccinate as soon as they can. It’s up to them to protect their own businesses.”