Farmers in North import cattle from Germany despite bluetongue case

FARMERS in the North have imported cattle from Germany, which only weeks ago confirmed its first case of bluetongue this year.

One batch of 41 cattle from Germany went to four farms in the Ballymena, Coleraine and Omagh areas, while a further batch of 34 cattle from Holland went to seven different farms in Newry and Omagh.

Northern Ireland Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew said she could not believe that some farmers had shown a complete disregard for the industry. She warned farmers of the risks of letting their guard down in relation to the threat of bluetongue, which has the potential, she said, to devastate the sector.

“To prevent the spread of disease any imported animal found to have bluetongue will be culled and no compensation will be paid.

“But by that time the disease may have already affected neighbouring farms. It is a very high price to pay for importing cheaper stock,” she said.

Ms Gildernew said she has consistently urged potential importers to act responsibly and consider the devastating impact a bluetongue outbreak would have on local herds.

“It is time for those importers who continue to act irresponsibly in relation to heightening the bluetongue risk to think beyond their own selfish interests.

“If they continue to import, regrettably warnings may not be enough and we will be facing a much worse scenario,” she said.

Ms Gildernew said her officials have regular contact with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Dublin to ensure that appropriate and sufficient measures are taken to protect the bluetongue free status of the whole island.

Farmers in the south were also urged earlier this month by Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith not to import cattle or sheep which may have been exposed to the bluetongue virus.

“The highest risk of introduction of bluetongue is via an imported animal,” he said.

IFA animal health project team chairman John Waters said the threat of the virus being introduced to Ireland continues to be very real.

He advised farmers to resist the temptation to import animals from restricted areas.

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