Welsh Assembly threatens Bluetongue vaccine sale unless uptake improves

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The Welsh Assembly Government has threatened to start selling off some of the 7.5m doses of unused bluetongue vaccine unless farmers start vaccinating their stock against the disease.

Elin Jones, rural affairs minister, said she was bitterly disappointed with the uptake of the vaccination programme so far.

Speaking at the opening of the Welsh Dairy Show in Carmarthen on Tuesday (21 October), Ms Jones said only 2m doses of the vaccine had been used and that she was ultimately responsible for any unused vaccine.

“I am not worried about the cost coming off my budget next year because I will sell any not taken up to Scottish and French farmers,” she said.

“The industry urged me to order supplies and at one time criticised me for not ordering enough but, for whatever reasons, too many farmers seem to be prepared to take a terrible risk.

“If bluetongue reaches Wales it will be farmers who carry the cost, not me, as there is no compensation.”

Gareth Vaughan, FUW President, said he shared the minister’s frustration about the poor uptake of vaccine.

He warned his members Ms Jones was serious about selling unused vaccine.

Dylan Morgan, deputy director NFU Cymru, said farmers risked a heavy financial penalty if they did not use the vaccine.

In particular, he urged dairy farmers to vaccinate before cattle were housed for the winter and conditions became ideal for midges carrying the bluetongue infection.