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Stackyard News Mar 09

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Dutch Farmer to Highlight Bluetongue Impact at Skipton

CCM Auctions and the Skipton-based Kingsway Veterinary Group are to host a visit from a Dutch farmer and agricultural management consultant who has personally experienced the devastating effects of the Bluetongue virus in his home country.

Farmers in the UK should not hesitate to vaccinate their livestock as an insurance policy against Bluetongue, advises Jakob Pustjens, a Dutch dairy farmer and industry consultant who is to meet farmers at Skipton Auction Mart.

Jakob Pustjens

Jakob Pustjens, from Nederweert in the south of The Netherlands, will share his knowledge of the deadly disease – it has widely affected the regional agricultural community - with local farmers at a meeting at Skipton Auction Mart, on Tuesday, March 10, at 12noon.

The visit is one of a number being made to livestock markets throughout England and Wales by Jakob. At each event, he will meet farmers face-to-face and talk openly about the impact of Bluetongue in The Netherlands since it was first discovered there in 2006.

With many of the questions about Bluetongue currently voiced by UK livestock producers the same as those which were originally raised by Dutch farmers two years ago, Jakob hopes that by sharing his experiences he will help to increase their knowledge and enable them to arrive at informed decisions concerning disease control and vaccination.

Jakob, who manages his family’s 100 Holstein Friesian dairy cows and 90 heifers, and also provides advice to farmers throughout the south of his country, comments: “As a farmer, you never think that Bluetongue will affect you, until it does. Unfortunately, by the time livestock show visible signs of the disease, it’s already too late to prevent it.

“I knew many farmers in the north of The Netherlands who thought that the disease would be confined to the south and would not reach them. It did - and they were left counting the cost.

“Many farms in my region were very badly affected. One of my clients saw their average annual milk yield decline very quickly - from over 7,500 litres to less than 6,000 litres, while on another high-performing unit the average daily yield fell from over 40 litres to under 10 litres in less than a month. A quarter of the herd eventually had to be slaughtered.

“My experience of the disease on our own farm started in the autumn of 2007, very soon after neighbouring herds began having problems. Over 20 per cent of our cows had problems with their feet and, subsequently, difficulty in walking, milk yields dropped and cows were more difficult to get back in calf.

“Although I believe we got off very lightly compared with many other farms in my region, the disease still cost us €10,000 to €15,000. In 2008, when the Dutch Government gave us the green light to vaccinate, we didn’t have to think twice!

“My advice to farmers in the UK would, therefore, be to vaccinate before Bluetongue is diagnosed in their area, because otherwise it could be too late.”

Chris Dodds, of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, which is supporting the events in conjunction with Merial Animal Health, said: “We believe Jakob’s visits will be of immense value to farmers. Livestock auctions are central to the UK industry and we are happy to play our part in these visits.”

Jeremy Eaton, general manager at Skipton Auction Mart, said: “Bluetongue is a major concern to all of us, so any initiative that provides clear information and facts based on experience is to be welcomed and encouraged.”

Andy Barrett, a livestock partner at Kingsway Veterinary Group, added: “A lot of farmers are asking for advice about controlling Bluetongue virus. This is a great opportunity to learn first hand about how the disease affected livestock in The Netherlands.”

link Increasing Threat Makes 2009 Bluetongue Guard Vital
link New Concept for Sheep Parasite Control Launched by Fort Dodge Animal Health
link RABDF Calls for Import Ban on Livestock from All BT Restricted Zones

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