UK Close to BTV Eradication, But Only with Import Care

Scotland’s leading livestock organisations have reacted positively to the news that the number of reported cases in Europe of the devastating livestock disease, Bluetongue (BTV) are in marked decline.   With continued vigilance, disease-free status for Scotland and the rest of GB is realistic while eradication of the disease in Europe is a distinct possibility. 

Incidence in Europe of the most prevalent strain, BTV 8, has fallen dramatically and other strains of the debilitating livestock virus also appear to be on the wane.

Representatives of NFU Scotland, the Scottish Beef Cattle Association, the National Beef Association and the National Sheep Association have renewed their call to Scottish livestock keepers to maintain their voluntary ban on importing stock from BTV-infected areas in order to help keep the disease out of UK livestock and increase the chance of eradicating the disease altogether.

During the last three years, livestock keepers across the EU have been engaged in a rigorous programme of BTV prevention, which has been conducted through a regime of vaccination and careful movement of animals. Figures released by the European Commission show the number of cases of different serotypes of BTV across the EU this year were as follows:

BTV 1:            Spain 36 cases, Italy 4, Portugal 2, France 1
BTV 2:            Italy 12
BTV 4:            Italy 2, Spain 2
BTV 8:            Italy 2 (both near French border)
BTV 9:            Italy 3
BTV 16:          Greece 2

NFU Scotland’s Vice-President, Nigel Miller said:

“Scottish livestock keepers are to be congratulated for continuing to source stock responsibly and adhering to the voluntary import ban over the high risk summer period has been crucial in keeping Scotland disease free.   This, and the 2008 Scottish vaccination campaign, plus vaccination throughout much of the EU, have undoubtedly helped to keep the number of cases down, and in Scotland’s case, at zero.

“In particular, the vast reduction in the number of cases of BTV-8 in Europe is little short of miraculous, although the reporting of such cases may not be entirely accurate.  That said, the future does still look good and livestock producers are still emphatically advised to stay safe and import animals only when it is safe to do so.

“The low risk period for imports coincides with low virus and midge activity and runs from now until the end of April 2011.   Low risk does not mean ‘no’ risk and as the figures show there is still a risk posed by some of the new strains of BTV emerging in southern Europe.

“The advice of Scottish stakeholders is that anyone who feels they must import stock at this time of year should also follow the Scottish Winter Import Code.”  


The Winter Import Code for producers needing to source livestock from BTV-infected areas of mainland Europe during the Transmission Free Period (TFP) is as follows:

  • Imports of susceptible animals may start from the first day of the TFP but should stop two weeks before the final day of the TFP i.e. 30 April 2011.
  • Unless movement is from a BTV-free zone, imports must be subject to Annex III rules for testing and vaccination prior to import.
  • All imported animals will be PCR tested on arrival by Animal Health and kept under movement restrictions until proven negative.
  • The local DVM must be notified of the movement 24 hours before the animal’s arrival; more notice would be helpful.

Pregnant cattle pose a BTV risk through any calf subsequently born; importers should therefore avoid in-calf animals. However, if they are to be imported, the following guidelines should be followed:

  • Annex III rules should be followed.
  • If pregnant cattle are imported, they should calve before the end of March;
  • All calves born of imported cows or heifers should be PCR tested within one week of birth.

The TFP represents the time of year when the virus is unable to replicate within the vectors of disease (in this case midges) and therefore is not able to pass between cattle. Because it is dependent on weather conditions, it is not fixed, however based on historic temperature records the TFP will run from 1 November 2010 to 30 April 2011.  


Contact Sarah Anderson on 0131 472 4108

Date Published:

News Article No.: 152/10

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