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Bluetongue Vaccine Option Should Be Evaluated for Scotland and Wales 13/12/07

The Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly should initiate an urgent public debate with its livestock farmers so that the pros and cons of a vaccine policy against bluetongue are fully examined and an informed decision on the treatment of the disease in Scotland and Wales is taken.

© www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk

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So says National Beef Association which is aware that Defra has tendered for sufficient doses to cover the vaccination of the English cattle herd and sheep flock next summer because it expects bluetongue to circulate again next year.

And Defra may also be prepared to extend the current protection zone to cover all of England’s counties so that any cattle or sheep farmer can take part in a cross-England vaccination protection programme.

“There is a view in England that as long as the vaccine is cheap, that is in the region of 50p a dose, a voluntary programme could suit farmers best because they can weigh the cost of vaccination against the known damage bluetongue infection can inflict on reproduction cycles and growth performance and decide which animals to inoculate,” explained NBA.

“English farmers could also measure the cost of disposing of bluetongue fatalities, which could become more common as animals are bitten more often by infected midges, through the Livestock Disposal Scheme, against the cost of vaccine and if vaccination was voluntary farmers could choose to carry out the operation in the same way they would do against BVD or any other viral disease.”

According to National Beef Association Scotland confirmation of such moves in England could have a profound impact on the value of store and breeding stock in Scotland and Wales as well as offer opportunities for the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly to join in an all-Britain initiative to suppress the economic damage that could be inflicted on the Scottish and Welsh industries if, or when, bluetongue becomes endemic.

“Decisions are easier in England because the disease is already circulating within its borders while in Scotland and Wales there is still debate on whether there will ever be a bluetongue outbreak and the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly has yet to decide whether to order any vaccine,” said Ms Haywood.

“However the Scottish and Welsh industries should realise that if England does embark on a vaccination programme buyers from England who are looking for Scottish and Welsh stock will not want to buy unprotected animals and the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly should also acknowledge that some Scottish and Welsh farmers will want to protect their businesses against the disease.”

“A number of issues will have to be thoroughly probed before a decision is made. These will include whether government and industry are prepared to anticipate the disease by including Scotland and Wales in an extended protection zone so that vaccination can take place - or whether it would be better to wait for an outbreak to be confirmed in Scotland or Wales first.”

“But decisions expected to be made in England could make the absence of vaccine availability in Scotland and Wales work against the interests of many livestock businesses and it will be impossible for the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly to enjoy the benefit of having a full range of options at its disposal if it has not ordered vaccine and there is none to hand,” Ms Haywood added.

link Joint Disease Initiative Should First Tackle Government Inefficiency
link Relief as Ewe Payment Set to Hit Bank Accounts
link NFUS Urges Prompt LFASS Payments Despite SRDP Delay

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