Imported Dutch cattle breach EU bluetongue rules

Two in-calf Dutch cows left stranded in Scotland when they failed to comply with European bluetongue rules are to be returned to the Netherlands after “strong and persistent” representation from the Scottish Government.

The cows, part of a shipment of six Dutch dairy heifers, entered Scotland on the way to southern Ireland. But officials at the Northern Ireland port of Larne discovered that the two animals had been pregnant before being vaccinated against bluetongue.

This breached European livestock movement rules. The Netherlands is a designated bluetongue zone but Ireland is classed as bluetongue free. So Northern Ireland officials returned the animals to the previous port, which was Stranraer in Scotland.

The incident led to immediate calls from NFU Scotland for European bluetongue rules to be properly enforced by all member states. But almost a week of negotiations passed before the Netherlands agreed that the animals could be returned.

NFU Scotland vice president Nigel Miller said: “This is another example of the existing EU requirements on bluetongue breaking down. It is in addition to the numerous imports of animals from Europe into England and Wales last year where animals tested positive for the virus when they arrived.

“Temperatures across Europe are now rising and the period when the midges responsible for transmitting the deadly virus are inactive is coming to an end. The need for extra vigilance against the disease is growing.”