Call for bluetongue vaccination halt to allow cross-border autumn trading

NFU Scotland is calling for a halt in the bluetongue vaccination programme before it reaches the north of England to allow cross-border trading in cattle and sheep this autumn.

Scotland has a long tradition of sourcing cattle in the north of England and the May census revealed that more than 11,000 cattle born in Cumbria and Northumberland were on Scottish farms.

“That traditional trade would be affected if the north of England is brought into the vaccination zone before the regular calf sales take place this autumn,” said NFUS vice-president Nigel Miller.

Both Scotland and the north of England have remained free from bluetongue and the free movement of stock is allowed between the two areas. Under the current programme, vaccine is likely to be made available to farmers in the north of England by the end of the month.

The planned vaccination programme in Scotland is not due to kick in until the vector-free period starts in mid-December unless bluetongue hits before then.

“We believe the time is right to review the continued roll-out of vaccine in England,” said Mr Miller. “If the current timetable in England is met, there would be significant implications for calf producers in Northumberland and Cumbria who have traditionally supplied Scottish finishers through the September and October sales.

“Halting vaccination in the north would strike a balance between the economic considerations of trade disruption against those of necessary disease control.”

Mr Miller said he welcomed the commitment of farmers in existing vaccination areas in England to eradicate bluetongue. And he conceded that it was an issue for DEFRA and farmers south of the border to decide.

“However, the implications for trade and disease control are UK-wide and it is appropriate that we feed into this debate,” he said.

NFU chief livestock adviser Dylan Morgan said the over-riding consideration was halting the spread of bluetongue.

More than 4500 cases had been recorded in France this year and the first case had been confirmed in Holland.

“We are at the peak of midge activity and we can expect bluetongue to reach England at any time,” said Mr Morgan.

“We fully understand the Scottish view and the importance of cross-border trading, but there is an industry wide view that we stick to the roll out programme as vaccine becomes available.”