DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn has warned farmers importing livestock from bluetongue-infected areas of Europe to “act carefully”.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference in Manchester on Sunday (21 October), Mr Benn told Farmers Weekly that buying livestock from the Continent should be done with caution.

“In the meantime, the industry should heed calls to vaccinate against the disease,” he said.

“It’s important to repeat the message that farmers have a responsibility to vaccinate and work in partnership with DEFRA and the rest of the industry.”

His plea to the industry came after hundreds of farmers shelved plans to vaccinate against the disease over fears the vaccine could affect the breeding ability of stock.

Wales’ chief veterinary officer Christianne Glossop said the uptake of the vaccine in Wales had been “disappointingly slow”.

Meanwhile Mr Benn refused to comment on rumours cattle with the BTV8 strain of bluetongue had been imported to the north east of England from the south of France.

“We have to wait and see,” he said. “There is a programme of checks which DEFRA is carrying out and we will have to wait for those results.

“But the way DEFRA and the industry have been working together has been excellent and I urge that relationship to continue.”