Warning over livestock imports as ‘new strain’ of bluetongue is discovered in Holland

Livestock farmers have been urged not to import livestock after a possible new strain of bluetongue was discovered in Holland.

NFU Scotland said breeders risked “throwing away the country’s advantage” in controlling the disease if they brought in cattle from overseas.

The warning came as the Dutch ministry of agriculture imposed an export and breeding ban on animals susceptible to bluetongue after three animals tested positive for a strain not usually found in Holland.

Dutch scientists have begun investigations into whether the strain is a variant of BTV8, the strain being vaccinated against in the UK, or new type of the virus.

As a precautionary measure, the Dutch farming minister imposed an export ban on bluetongue-susceptible animals from yesterday (20 October)

Under the move, which is initially in place for two weeks, producers were also banned from breeding sheep, cattle and goats.

The ministry said it would make a further decision over the ban once more was found out about the strain.

Dutch farming organisation LTO told Farmers Weekly‘s sister paper Boerderij that it supported the export ban.

“Given the pressure from abroad and the worrying situation we are in because we don’t know what is going on, this measure is appropriate,” a spokesman said.

“The measure will cause economic damage, but sometimes there are larger interests at stake.”

Nigel Miller, NFUS vice-president, said the situation in Holland meant the issue of livestock sourcing had become even more important.

“We can count our blessings that we remain free of the disease but we can’t afford to let our guard down for a single moment.”

Increased strains of the disease would prove a real challenge for veterinary authorities, Mr Miller added.