Monday, 3 March 2008

UK - 88 holdings last Defra update: evening Feb 29

March 3 2008 ~ "It has now emerged that maternal transmission is another possible means.."
Michelle Gildernew, the Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister is quoted on
"I am confident SCOFCAH will introduce effective measures in due course, but, I feel I have to anticipate the out-workings of this committee, and with my Executive colleagues am acting decisively now to protect our industry from this disease." Northern Ireland's unilateral import controls were taken for a limited period up to March 6. Mrs Gildernew said that the additional import controls will be "regularly reviewed in line with emerging science and developments in the EU Commission". SCOFCAH (the EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health) will meet again next week.

March 3 2008 ~With farmers and vets preparing to vaccinate, Jack Davies and Alistair Driver look at the key questions surrounding vaccination.
The Farmers Guardian:
"...the PZ will gradually be extended to allow more farmers the opportunity to purchase vaccine...The south coast may be given priority.... a risk-based approached, targeting those areas most at risk from disease. The intention is ultimately to expand the PZ to the whole of England and vaccinate accordingly as soon as supplies are available...". (Read in full). It is unclear as yet how vaccination in Wales, (only 2.5million doses ordered) and Scotland (12 million doses expected to be ordered this week) will proceed. Vaccine will be available in 50ml (50 doses) and 20ml (20 doses) bottles and a rough estimate of cost is about 60p per dose. "The cost may vary with veterinary fees and with some farmers requiring supervision, the cost may increase further..."

March 1 2008 ~ " The European Commission is now looking at changing its rules on animal movements... " Belfast Telegraph
Northern Ireland's Belfast Telegraph, in its article, Imports row over disease outbreak says that Assembly members have questioned why the latest bluetongue emergency restrictions took so long to impose — and why they will last for less than a week. (until March 6.) The Agriculture Committee vice chairman, Tom Elliott, has asked why the Irish Republic has been operating more stringent import restrictions while Ulster farmers have been left exposed to the bluetongue threat.

March 1 2008 ~ " The need for vaccination and its urgency have been underlined.. ..since the onset of the epizootic in Europe. Already one-season-too-late, significant additional losses may still be prevented. This relates in particular to receptive, not yet infected areas, where the vaccine should be applied before summer 2008" - Mod.AS at ProMed today in a comment following the posting of a summary of the Bluetongue situation throughout Europe (but only as of 8 Jan 2008) and, more particularly, yesterday's FG story about the expected U turn on vaccination in Scotland (below) It seems extraordinarily unfortunate that the urgent need for vaccination in "not yet infected areas" is only now being contemplated by Scotland and by others. We made this point over four months ago in the blog Scotland the Brave when Scots farming bosses were saying they "could not be party to a policy which could expose the Scottish livestock industry to this most dreadful disease" - ie by extending the Protection Zone into Scotland in order to be allowed to vaccinate.

February 29 2008 ~ DEFRA has extended the bluetongue protection zone
following confirmation of the disease on one farm in Buckinghamshire and another in Hertfordshire. There are now 88 confirmed premises in the UK
February 29 2008 ~ Intervet to supply France
Intervet, who has already received firm orders from the UK and the Netherlands, has today received an official order from France to supply 27 million doses of inactivated vaccine against serotype 8. It will supply the Bovilis BTV 8 vaccine to France as soon as possible, . Intervet is currently "optimizing the production process" and is doing the utmost to speed up the first deliveries "for mid-spring". The vaccine has been developed for sheep and for cattle - goats are not yet included in official statements. Intervet says (informal communication), "Our product is effective in both sheep and cows. In both vaccinated animal groups our vaccine will bring about less virus circulation after infection. So the chance of the virus being picked up by the midges is smaller, and therefore the virus will multiply less and spread less. Virus in the blood does not always mean that the animal is sick. Reducing the virus 100% is not always possible and not always necessary."

February 29 2008 ~ Northern Ireland have suspended the import of certain cattle and sheep from bluetongue zones
See Belfast TelegraphThe legality of such a unilateral move seems to be in question. More as we hear further comment.

February 29 2008 ~ "..the intention is to extend or modify the zone in order to permit further vaccination"
In answer to a question from Peter Bone MP, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, Jonathan Shaw (Hansard) said, " Depending on vaccine availability and the disease situation, once vaccination is progressing broadly across the Protection Zone, the intention is to extend or modify the zone in order to permit further vaccination. This will allow a phased approach as vaccine is delivered."

February 29 2008 ~ U-turn on vaccination from Scottish Government expected next week.
Until last week, livestock representatives in Scotland, and the Scottish Government, opposed vaccination. As with FMD vaccination, EU rules have been the reason. Livestock leaders feared the movement restrictions that would be imposed if a Protection Zone was declared - and the bizarre EU rules say vaccination may take place only in a PZ. Scotland also has a lucrative trade with the Republic of Ireland and did not want to lose their ability to trade with other free countries. It is expected that Scotland will now order 12 million doses of vaccine, probably from Merial or Fort Dodge.Dr Ruth Watkins is quoted in the Farmers Guardian:
“Vaccine used in Britain this summer will help to suppress the level of virus being carried by the midge population, especially if it is directed first at cattle. This in turn will reduce the number of infected sheep... but it will not prevent infection spread entirely. Britain must try to use vaccine this year even though it will not arrive at the perfect time and its distribution will be imperfect. However it is important that is distributed before August.”Read Farmers Guardian article which has the full story.

February 28 2008 ~ "DEFRA has admitted it culled the wrong animal
after bluetongue was found in an imported cow on a farm near Middlesbrough, in December. The mistake resulted in the infected animal remaining on the farm, in the village of Great Ayton, until mid-January..." See Farmers Guardian The tone of the Defra spokeswoman's statement may cause some raised eyebrows. She said that the mistake was "due to an ‘administrative error in recording identification numbers’ on the farm by Animal Health officials, compounded by a failure to carry out the proper checks later by officials at AH ‘headquarters’," adding apparently that it was "lucky" that the error occurred in the vector free period....

February 28 2008 ~ Danish scientists to investigate if satellites can predict when and where the midges are present in numbers.
".....When the knowledge gathered about the midges and their preferred conditions for living and reproducing is combined with data covering soil types and farms, the scientists plan to develop a computer model to calculate risk areas for bluetongue in Denmark.With an efficient computer model, the scientists have a tool which can help calculate how quickly the virus develops in midges and how fast the infection spreads in various locations and in different seasons...." From an article from New Zealand about Bluetongue and about African Horse Sickness (also spread by midges and also, fear many, about to affect Britain)

February 28 2008 ~ France: "this year it is a matter of limiting symptoms and losses rather than eradication of the disease"
The French Ministry of Agriculture has announced their vaccination plan (subject to final agreement on March 4th):
".... voluntary vaccination will be carried out by veterinary surgeons and paid for in part by livestock owners (at a reasonable charge). In effect, this year it is a matter of limiting symptoms and losses rather than eradication of the disease.... the State is buying the vaccines (financed ¾ by the EU, ¼ by the State). The costs of the vaccination process itself by vets will thus fall on the farmers. Even so, the European Commission will contribute this year a maximum of 1 euro for every bovine (i.e. 50 centimes per injection) and 15 centimes per smaller animal vaccinated which will be paid directly to the vets. The timescale: one delivery for serotype 1 , April for serotype 8, then in stages every month until August when a total number of 40 million of doses ought to have been delivered. (30 million for bovine and 10 for small ruminants) For both sheep and cattle, the 16 departments affected in 2006 will take priority . .."(We have now translated the information from La Directrice Départementale des services vétérinaires in full,)

February 27 2008 ~ Some extracts from the French veterinary press..
..give an insight into the deep anxiety of French vets about the evolution of the disease since 2006 and the absolute necessity of effective vaccination. From La Semaine Vétérinaire N° 1298 :
".. In two and a half months we had more abortions than in the last 10 years. ... calves weigh 20 kg and die as soon as they are put on drips. In thirty-five years of practice, I have never seen this before. .. the economic impact is enormous. 80-85% of the grazers that we have tested for exportation are positive and they are selling much more cheaply. We have doubts too about the effect on their fertility. I do not know what to say to the farmers/breeders .... It is the same thing with vaccination. I know that I am troubled (when I think) about the risks next Spring if the necessary doses of the vaccine are not ready in time. " Dr François Piffoux, Avallon, Yonne "... the evolution of the disease in the animals at the beginning of lactation has produced numerous forms or deaths. At the end of December, we have had to undertake euthaniasia everyday, in cattle who are not recovering. Their suffering, is very visible and enormously marked. ... from now on the production in the farms will become less profitable a...and they will disappear unless an effective solution can be found. ... Only an effective vaccination can restore hope to the farmers and breeders..." Dr Hervé François, Dieuze , Moselle

February 26 2008 ~ "Animal Health" has launched today a free news alert service on notifiable animal disease.
The service is available to anyone who is interested. It provides registered users with the latest news on exotic notifiable animal disease outbreaks in Great Britain - FMD, Bluetongue, H5N1, Newcastle disease and Classical Swine Fever. It is very easy to register for any or all of these and, for email alerts, all that is needed is an email address. LinkIn addition today DEFRA has a link to a general licence for the movement of ruminant animals from premises in a Surveillance Zone in England to premises in a Restricted Zone in Wales

February 26 2008 ~ Merial Licences restored
We must be grateful for small mercies. The Defra website:
"SAPO licence restored to Merial Animal Health Defra has today restored the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) licence to Merial Animal Health to permit the use of Foot and Mouth Disease and Blue Tongue viruses for vaccine production. This follows inspections by the Health and Safety Executive and Defra."It is to be hoped that Merial in the UK can now go full steam ahead on these life-saving vaccines and that orders will be firmly made. See also below.

February 25/26 2008 ~ France way ahead on Bluetongue
As Ruth Watkins points out, France is the only European country to have ordered sufficient vaccine to vaccinate all the domestic ruminants and also to have a plan in place to do so. They realise, too, that in order to protect the Mediterranean countries against infection with the virulent BTV-8 strain as well as France's own livestock, the areas infected in France must do their level best to eradicate the disease. France's vaccination campaign will be compulsory. (Note: this last statement may not be wholly accurate. Inquiries as to the latest situation are underway) The vaccine itself is being paid for by the EU; french farmers will pay only for half the veterinary bills. Farmers in Eastern and Northern France have already been instructed to errect crushes for their livestock to enable the vaccination to be undertaken efficiently, fast and without injury to beast and man. (Many thanks to Susan Baekeland, our Normandy correspondent, for this information)

Monday, 25 February 2008

Latest Bluetongue posts at

February 25 2008 ~ "...unfounded
suspicion that somehow vaccination allows animals to be infectious whilst
concealing signs of clinical disease."

    In her talk on Friday, Dr Watkins spoke, with all the well founded frustration of the expert virologist, of "the redundant rule" that
    vaccination is not allowed in the surveillance zone nor outside the surveillance zone in uninfected areas.
      "... Why should we be
      afraid of using vaccination to prevent virus infection from spreading and
      establishing itself in new areas? Is this because of an unfounded
      suspicion that somehow vaccination allows animals to be infectious whilst
      concealing signs of clinical disease? We are back in the mid 20th
      century if we continue to act as though we are unable to diagnose virus
      infection unless we wait for a clinical case to take samples to the
      virology laboratory."
    Her talk (new window) is clear and informative, should be printed out and read in full. What she says is an eye-opener too about why we are having to play catch-up with the disease, why vaccine production in Europe has been so delayed and why vaccination is going to be incomplete until far more vaccine can be ordered and obtained and 95% coverage of domestic ruminants achieved.

February 24/25 2008 ~ "Several export countries are playing politics with the Bluetongue virus, so says Veepro Holland Director, Johan van den Berg..."

    The Dutch appear to doubt that exported animals that tested negative in Holland could really have carried virus. The article in Agrarisch Dagblad continues, ".. In some countries, calves which in the Netherlands tested negative for the Bluetongue virus were slaughtered because these animals appeared to score positive for bluetongue abroad.

    23 animals were put down recently in Northern Ireland because they were said to carry the Bluetongue virus or antibodies against the virus. In Spain too several Dutch calves were destroyed because of the presence of the virus.

    According to van den Berg is it impossible that Dutch calves could carry the virus abroad when they tested negative in the Netherlands. Dutch tests are carried out by
    CIDC in Lelystad.
      "This is a trusted and internationally recognized lab"
    according to van den Berg. He also added that the Dutch Government should put this case to the EU Commission in Brussels.

    Last week in Wales a sheep was discovered carrying the Bluetongue virus. The Dutch test for the virus prior to the animals export was negative." (Our italics) It would indeed be interesting to know more about the actual tests that were carried out before and after export.

February 24/25 2008 ~ "these are the kind of things that add fuel to my rage.."

    The picture (it will need to be opened separately since it may be too upsetting for many people to choose to see) shows what Bluetongue can make out of a calf that was supposed to be a pure bred Simmental. And while the politicians and the non-involved take so long to decide, over our heads and for their own reasons, what is to be done about this disease, it is wreaking this sort of damage on the animals in our charge. It makes one weep to remember how far along Merial was at the time their licence was snatched away, how far politically motivated was the reason for its removal - and how desperately needed these Btv vaccines are now that were being developed then. That the research and development all ground to a halt because of the government and DEFRA's action may well mean that farmers are going to be faced more and more with what we see in this picture. It is not pretty.

February 24/25 2008 ~ Inadequate vaccine supply seems horribly likely

    The Dutch site says (This is our own free translation. An improved version would be gratefully received):
      "The vaccine producer Intervet in Boxmeer cannot provide the required six millions vaccines against bluetongue in time. Intervet says the first million will be available from the 1 May; a month later the second million and remaining by August. As a result, there is a real possibility that animals vaccinated last may succumb. It is still not clear which region in the Netherlands will be vaccinated first..... According to a spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, nothing has yet been decided. Minister Verburg will probably take two weeks to make a decision..."
    What is more, this pdf paper (in French), while revealing that both Merial and Intervet are providing vaccines for BTv8 in France, suggests
    that Intervet's vaccines for sheep can be first administered in April. This does not accord with the Dutch report and it is looking more and more unlikely that there will be sufficient vaccines for the whole of the affected regions of Europe to allow effective coverage. Germany, has not even ordered any vaccine yet. Belgium and Luxembourg do not seem to have either. Scotland is continuing to appear to be in denial of the inevitable. 2008 could well be a year of even greater catastrophe among Europe's livestock farmers.

February 24 2008 ~ "European regulations are not adequate in light of findings that blue tongue is not just transferred by the midge population."

    The Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister, Michelle Gildernew, is quoted on the BBC in a very brief report. It would appesr that Mrs Gildernew is convinced that vertical transmission is indeed taking place (see below) but we have yet to see any hard evidence for this. As always, informed comment would be very gratefully received.

February 24 2008 ~ "the virus will become active again from the middle of March - months before a new vaccine becomes available..."

    Prof Phillip Mellor from the Institute for Animal Research is quoted in the Sunday Telegraph today: "With the sort of increase in infection we've seen in northern Europe, we'd be expecting thousands of farms to be infected this year. This vaccine is supposed to arrive in May this year - so it's a race between the delivery of the vaccine and the transmission of the virus - it is going to be a very close race."

Sunday February 24 2008 ~ "Dr Dercksen stressed the importance of what he termed as 'loving care' and good animal husbandry..." is very grateful to Jane Barribal, editor of, for her report of Friday night's Bluetongue meeting at Duns and which can be read on the farmtalking website. In addition, Dr Ruth Watkins' talk can be found there in full. Jane Barribal commented: "....describing and explaining the virus, antibodies and the differences between 'live' and 'killed' (inactivated) vaccines, in a lively and most entertaining way. Who would have thought 'the science of virology' could be so much fun?

    Illustrating her talk with the use of a shimmering purple football and some hazel twigs, it was so easy to understand how the virus replicates, destroys cells and antibodies are produced etc. ..."
    The valuable contributions of George Milne and Dr James Irvine are also briefly reported as is the map from Pirbright shown to the audience by Dr. Daan Dercksen.

February 24 2008 ~ The effect of Bluetongue in the Moselle region of North East France

    We have been sent a translation of a report in which we find that the first farm infected was on 31st August 2007; by 17th December, 2007 there were 1511 farms infected, consisting of 1334 herds of cattle, 176 herds of sheep, and 1 herd of goats. The dairy farms seem to have been more affected than those with suckling cattle: 51% of the herds affected were dairy, 40% beef cattle with calves at foot. Read in full. This report of one area of France is pretty typical of what we are seeing elsewhere in Northern Europe, including in Germany. Elimination of bluetongue by adequate vaccination coverage is vital for Britain - all of Britain, including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

February 23 2008 ~ A report on the full BTV forum meeting

    has been posted by Nick Clayton on the . Goat Veterinary Society website
      "Intervet have sent out forms to all veterinary practices...
      Remember that only animals within a PZ can be vaccinated.

      ...if you are in a PZ and wish to move animals to either the SZ or a free area, or in the SZ and wish to move to the free area, it would be wise to do so NOW otherwise the window of opportunity will be lost until vaccination can take place. ...

      The meeting was chaired by John Kittner who declared that the very low levels of viraemia found were unlikely to be sufficient to infect midges, but that view was contested by Chris Lewis who pointed out that it is thought that the virus may overwinter in T cells and then infect midges.....

      There was considerable discussion re the merits of a voluntary scheme as against a compulsory one. .... it was made clear that there could be problems, especially where finance was tight due to livestock having been unsaleable last Autumn due to movement restrictions, and where animals were due in the normal course of events to be moved to summer grazing in a PZ from outside, which would create a great difficulty as they could not be vaccinated pre movement....

      .... there may be different tiers of certification needed by farmers.

      ....BTV1 has now been disclosed near San Sebastian...

      Vaccine manufacturers are being encouraged to produce a combined BTV1 and BTV8 vaccine. .."
    Read in full

February 23 2008 ~ Under the Vector Free Period rules, animal movement must be completed by midnight on March 15th, the end of the VFP.

    After March 15, animals can move from free zones to anywhere - or from Surveillance Zones to Protection Zones. Even with a blood test, animals will not be allowed to move from PZ to anywhere else, nor from SZ to a free zone until it has been vaccinated, and then either kept for another 60 days, or certified not to be viraemic by a PCR.
    The surveillance zone has now been extended to include Cornwall. See Defra website

February 23 2008 ~ Scottish Cabinet secretary for rural affairs was questioned on the subject of bluetongue disease by

James Irvine

    Dr Irvine, quoted in the Scotsman said to Richard Lochhead: "In my experience the basic principle of disease control is to vaccinate before any disease arrives. You have not ordered any vaccine, which places Scotland in an extraordinarily vulnerable position." The Scotsman commented:

      Lochhead simply prevaricated telling the questioner that all options were being considered and that decisions are likely to be reached over the next few days. The bluetongue issue is one that is set to exercise the Scottish Government very soon."

February 22 2008 ~ Bluetongue risk starts "in April" says DEFRA

    The BBC reports that

    Researchers from the Institute for Animal Research have produced a map showing when farms in different parts of England and Wales are at most risk.

    "They say midges that could spread the virus will become active from the middle of March, but could begin infecting livestock just weeks later.

    The head of the team feared that a vaccine would not be ready until after the first animals had become infected."


    "In the UK in 2007, tDEFRA has announced the extension of the Bluetongue Surveillance Zone into Cornwall.
    " Inclusion in the Surveillance Zone will allow Cornish farmers to continue to trade as normal within the South West and the rest of the Surveillance Zone."

    Defra has also confirmed today that the current so-called Vector Free Period will end at midnight on 15 March 2008. DEFRA says, "This decision is based on an assessment of meteorological data and historic vector (midge) trapping, which provides evidence that the midge vectors for bluetongue will re-emerge at around this time."

    From 15 March no animals will be permitted to move out of the Restricted Zone.

February 22 2008 ~ Tests are now being carried out on the foetuses of culled animals to check for cow to calf transmission across the placenta.

    The Farmers Guardian reports on the apparent development in Northern Ireland. See also our report yesterdaybelow and informed comment in the most recent communication to warmwell from Dr Ruth Watkins.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Latest Posts on Bluetongue page

February 22 2008 ~ Bluetongue risk starts "in April" says DEFRA

    The BBC reports that Researchers from the Institute for Animal Research have produced a map showing when farms in different parts of England and Wales are at most risk. "They say midges that could spread the virus will become active from the middle of March, but could begin infecting livestock just weeks later. ..... The head of the team feared that a vaccine would not be ready until after the first animals had become infected." Meanwhile, "In the UK in 2007, tDEFRA has announced the extension of the Bluetongue Surveillance Zone into Cornwall. " Inclusion in the Surveillance Zone will allow Cornish farmers to continue to trade as normal within the South West and the rest of the Surveillance Zone." Defra has also confirmed today that the current so-called Vector Free Period will end at midnight on 15 March 2008. DEFRA says, "This decision is based on an assessment of meteorological data and historic vector (midge) trapping, which provides evidence that the midge vectors for bluetongue will re-emerge at around this time." From 15 March no animals will be permitted to move out of the Restricted Zone.

February 22 2008 ~ Tests are now being carried out on the foetuses of culled animals to check for cow to calf transmission across the placenta.

    The Farmers Guardian reports on the apparent development in Northern Ireland. See also our report yesterdaybelow and informed comment in the most recent communication to warmwell from Dr Ruth Watkins.

February 22 2008 ~‘no guarantees’ where the zones would be extended

    The Farmers Guardian reports that organisers of Summer Shows are calling on Defra to extend the Bluetongue Zones as soon as possible. Defra's Andrew Clayton said that decisions would be taken based on risk, extending the zones to areas most likely to be exposed to the virus.

February 21 2008 ~ "I have translated the article for your readers because I thought some farmers and vets in England might be interested.."

    We are very grateful to Susan Baekeland, now living in lower Normandy and who used to farm in Spain. She has experience in veterinary medicine and forwards to us this article from La Semaine Vétérinaire No 1299 of 25th January 2008 "Vaccination strategies in the Mediterranean basin - 6 countries share their experience of vaccination against Bluetongue." Read in full

February 21 2008 ~ "My sister's cow Duchess, infected with BTV-8 in Norfolk, is shortly to calve...."

    Dr Ruth Watkins, the virologist and farmer, has every reason to be concerned about developments in Northern Ireland:
      "If the calves born in N Ireland to the imported cows are documented to have bluetongue infection even whilst being apparently well, it signifies the cows have had a primary infection with BTV-8 in 2007 during their pregnancy and it is likely the calves will be viraemic and infectious to any biting female midge for an unknown period of time in the future, likely into the summer or throughout the summer of 2008.
      I would suggest that calves (or lambs) are tested of any imported ruminant into the UK if the cow (or ewe) was pregnant at the time of import, and has antibody to BTV-8, even if she has no virus present; one cannot know if infection in the 'antibody positive but virus RNA PCR negative' mother was in 2006 or 2007- when there is antibody only present (none have yet been vaccinated)...."
    Read Dr Watkins' communication in full.

February 21 2008 ~ “We need the vaccine and we need it now.”

    Margaret Dalton, a former Welsh Woman Farmer of the Year, is quoted in the Wales Daily Post. Fearing a lack of political urgency in getting sufficient supplies of bluetongue vaccine into Wales, she said that the situation was “extremely scary” and had raised the issue with rural affairs minister Elin Jones. “I’ve had figures showing that in January alone there were 107 new cases in northern France, 362 were notified in Germany between December 28 and January 11 – and the first case in Spain occurred on January 10." Other concerns on Mrs Dalton’s agenda include the legalisation of “smokies”, processing of wool for insulation and help for new farming entrants.

February 21 2008 ~"... the mechanism by which the original animal and the calves became infected is uncertain"

    In Northern Ireland, ".... It would seem that 3 out of 4 calves born to heifers in this group were ELISA positive and PCR positive.... It was judged prudent to remove all of the remaining heifers in this group as the mechanism by which the original animal and the calves became infected is uncertain. What is certain is that this group of cattle had already been exposed to the infection and that they presented a risk..." (see below)
    It seems very important that the "mechanism by which the calves became infected" should be found out as soon as possible. If vertical transmission is indeed taking place it suggets a very worrying development. Comment would be gratefully received.
    UPDATEProMed comment: "....The timetable of their route from the farms of origin on the continent until arrival in the destined Northern-Irish farm, including dates and duration of possible intermediate stay(s) in any locations underway -- on the continent and/or on British territory -- has to be completed. The findings in newborn calves (when and where have they been born?), namely their positive ELISA and PCR tests, add to the mystery. Extended viraemia in the heifers is just one of the hypothetical explanations, and not an overly satisfactory one."

February 21 2008 ~Germany announces plans for "mandatory immunisation" on German farms

    Officials said 867 German cows and six sheep had come down with the viral disease so far this year, after 20,479 cases last year. The original article (in German) says that it is highly unlikely that a vaccine will be licenced by May but the German authorities are prepared to implement emergency legislation to permit the use of these vaccines on a national scale. The German Ministry accepts that there might be a risk but priority should be to stop the virus from spreading further. A field trial on a limited scale is planned from the middle of March, supervised by the FLI.

February 20 2008 ~ "in total 30 animals were culled."

    It is with some astonishment that we read in the Belfast Telegraph that Northern Ireland's Agriculture Minister, Michelle Gildernew, had taken the decision on Sunday to cull the remaining 20 cattle in this imported group and all of their calves.
      "... We also culled a further three animals imported in another batch as a precautionary measure. The culling of these animals was completed on-farm on Monday and in total 30 animals were culled."
    Michelle Gildernew also told the Stormont Agriculture committee that even livestock that had been in contact with infected animals or that was likely to become infected could be slaughtered, and no compensation would be paid.
    The only justification we can even contemplate for slaughtering all the cows and their calves would be the possibility, suggested in some quarters, that vertical transmission between cow and calf has taken place. This seems most unlikely. As ProMed says below of the imported animals, " .. they were most probably not viraemic upon arrival in .. Ulster and thus did not seem to pose a real threat to the local livestock..."
    Any information about the possibility of vertical transmission (and Bluetongue is, of course, a disease that can be contracted only by means of the bite of an infected female midge) would be very gratefully received.
    UPDATE Bluetongue Disease Minister's Statement to Assembly 19/02/08".... It would seem that 3 out of 4 calves born to heifers in this group were ELISA positive and PCR positive.... It was judged prudent to remove all of the remaining heifers in this group as the mechanism by which the original animal and the calves became infected is uncertain. What is certain is that this group of cattle had already been exposed to the infection and that they presented a risk..."
    This is a strange and worrying development.

February 20 2008 ~ "....decreased public interest in agriculture in general and in non-zoonotic animal diseases in particular. Most unfortunate to Europe's farmers"

    The ProMed moderator today , (having cited's publicising the letter to the Vet Record by BVA President,Nick Blayney) deplores the scarcity of research work done on bluetongue BTV-8, and says
      "The statement that only "anecdotal" information is available on the effect of BTV-8 upon the production of cattle and sheep in Europe illuminates the clear need for updated, scientifically based information on the BTV-8 epizootic, which has already spread to 9 European countries. The following -- most recent available -- paper is included to somewhat decrease the knowledge gap.....
      ....the low rate of attention (and research effort) paid in Europe to the BTV-8 epizootic, already identified in 8 industrialised, western European countries, seems to reflect the decreased public interest in agriculture in general and in non-zoonotic animal diseases in particular. Most unfortunate to Europe's farmers..."
    More at ProMed mail (We find "most unfortunate" a somewhat Jeevesian use of adjective by the ever-tactful ProMed. "Catastrophic" is one of the adjectives warmwell would prefer. As Peter Morris, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, says below: “What is for sure is that if this disease beats us then the entire British livestock industry will be in real trouble.”)

February 20 2008 ~ Welsh farmers anxious about vaccine stocks

    Wales has been promised only 2.5 million of the 22.5 million doses ordered. We read in that Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Brynle Williams, has said, "It's extremely worrying that only 2.5million doses of bluetongue vaccination have been ordered by the Assembly Government. That does not even come close to covering the pedigree flocks here, let alone the commercial ones and cattle..." As for Scotland, no vaccine has been ordered at all.

February 20 2008 ~ NFU Scotland is inviting farmers from across the North East to its emergency meeting on Bluetongue and Sheep EID meeting on Monday

    The meeting will take place in Ring 2, Thainstone Market on Monday, 25 February, at 7.30pm and is open to NFU Scotland members and non-members. Bluetongue specialists Brian Rice and Kevin Douglas of Merial Animal Health Ltd. and Nigel Miller, NFU Scotland Vice-President will address the meeting before opening the floor to questions from the audience. Nigel Miller is quoted at NFUS: “To have Merial’s input at this meeting is significant as they already have experience of producing Bluetongue vaccines, albeit for other strains, in the Mediterranean, where the product has been successful. Scotland is at a crossroads regarding vaccination strategy so it is worth speaking to the people who have experience of controlling the disease.”

February 19 2008 ~ Stakeholder Meeting tomorrow

    The agenda for DEFRA's stakeholder meeting tomorrow will include a Disease Update, the Spring / Summer Strategy - policy statement, Vaccination , Movement issues and Communications. The "stakeholders" have been given a statement with the title, "Why is Defra proposing a voluntary vaccination campaign against Bluetongue? What about European co-funding?" It can be read here. (All links on this page open in new windows)

February 18 2008 ~ "... they were not viraemic upon arrival in Wales or Ulster and thus did not seem to pose a real threat to the local livestock..."

    Expert moderator's comment on ProMed, referring to
      "such as the Dutch-origin Texel sheep found positive in Wales; see at are not "1st BTV-8 cases" in new territories. These animals had been infected in their original countries a considerable time -- probably not less than 2 months -- before export. According to the veterinary certificate requirements, if they tested (serologically) positive prior to export, they should have been excluded from the consignments; however, most probably they were not viraemic upon arrival in Wales or Ulster and thus did not seem to pose a real threat to the local livestock; they thus do not deserve the definition "1st case."
      As spring approaches and temperatures rise, the risk from such animals will increase. - Mod.AS]"
    The slaughtering of 27 animals in Northern Ireland on the orders of DARD appears to be an unprecedented response. As the moderator says, they "..did not seem to pose a real threat to the local livestock."

February 18 2008 ~ BVA President: "Our fragile farming industry cannot afford this.....We must persuade our clients of the necessity of mass vaccination and our target must be 100 per cent"

    Nick Blayney's letter in the Veterinary Record should be read in full. Extract: "The profession has the opportunity to demonstrate yet again the value of a viable livestock veterinary sector to the nation. We must persuade our clients of the necessity of mass vaccination and our target must be 100 per cent.......The vaccine will be licensed as a POM-V, to be administered to animals under the care of a veterinary surgeon. It is likely that our clients will be permitted to vaccinate their own animals, although arrangements with regard to movement between zones or states (or devolved national boundaries) may require veterinary certification. .." Read in full

Monday, 18 February 2008

Latest Updates from

February 18 2008 ~ A voluntary scheme was what you wanted, says Hilary Benn
Hilary Benn has published a UK plan for bluetongue vaccination (where? It does not seem visible yet today at 2.30) confirming that it will be a voluntary campaign and that the "full cost" of vaccine will fall on the farmers themselves. The Farmers Guardian quotes Mr Benn:
".....The deal is the Government pays for the order up front and the full cost is then recovered as the vaccine is used by farmers.” Benn said the voluntary approach will be taken because ‘that’s what you said you wanted’. Could anyone tell us who it was that told the government that a voluntary scheme was what they wanted? Experts in the disease - and the experience in Corsica - tell us that anything less than about 85% or more coverage is simply going to be a waste of effort and money. One can only hope that all farmers will choose to vaccinate, will be able to afford to vaccinate and will be able to find enough doses out of the 22.5 million ordered to be able to vaccinate - and that Intervet provide sufficient doses in time.

February 18 2008 ~ "Science should not be mixed with a commercial organization"
While Defra is cutting millions from its budget for animal health, Holland is to have a new Institute for Animal Health. This will be achieved by the merging of the
"...Gezondheidsdienst voor Dieren and the Animal Sciences Group of Wageningen University. The new combination will have 1.400 employes and an annual turnover of 175 million euros. Both institutes will further work on the merger plans in the coming months." (source in Dutch) One Dutch correspondent comments to "we are not that enthusiastic about this merger. Science should not be mixed with a commercial organization. ASG is the animal research department of Wageningen University and the Gezondheidsdienst voor Dieren used to be a national institute for animal health but was privatized some years ago and is now commercial..." We too remember Professor Fred Brown lamenting the creeping commercialisation of Pirbright which was, in his day, a genuinely public service institution.

February 18 2008 ~ "NBA Scotland cannot understand the risk the Scottish Government is prepared to take by not ordering bluetongue vaccine..."
".... for general use on livestock farms this summer. It says it is unrealistic for Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead to expect farmers to be able to counter the advance of bluetongue virus, which has the potential to inflict disastrous economic and animal welfare damage on their businesses, without access to an effective restraint. It is also alarmed that while the Scottish Government says it would be prepared to spend up to £10m on financing a national vaccination programme, should bluetongue spread towards the Scottish border later this year, it is ready to gamble on only 100 to 200 Scottish animals being infected over 2008 - and prefers to hold back its funding until 2009 instead..." The Herald.

February 16 2008 ~ "farmers will be expected to fork out an average £330 if they want to voluntarily vaccinate their livestock "
The tone of this statement in Wales' Daily Post is interesting. It appears in a short article in which the exporter of the pure Dutch Texel ewe, found positive to BTV in Wales, is quoted as saying he had abided by all the rules before exporting the sheep and had sprayed them and "tested and retested". The FUW have called on Welsh farmers to abide by a voluntary ban on animal imports from high risk bluetongue zones in Europe.In the Daily Echo (Southern England), Farmer Jonathan Gerrelli is quoted:
"If we want to take our animals to Salisbury market, which is outside the zone, they have to be tested to make sure they haven't got bluetongue. Vets have a call-out charge of about £40 and tend to charge approximately £100 an hour once they're actually on your farm. Testing for bluetongue will cost a considerable amount, which will come out of any profit people thought they were going to make at market. I was hoping to take ten cattle to Salisbury market next Tuesday, but there's no way I can get the tests done and the results back in time."While European neighbours will be able to claim a considerable amount of compensation from the EU, our own farmers will be expected to foot all relevant bills themselves (see below). It is also, of course, uncertain whether the number of doses of vaccine ordered will be anywhere near sufficient.

February 16 2008 ~ "sporadic "out of season" (the so-called "vector-free" season) cases may still occur."
ProMed moderator " The behaviour and, indeed, detailed identity of the vectors -- particularly during the winter months -- is a subject in need of in-depth study."
February 16 2008 ~ Vaccination is likely to be "a farmer hands-on voluntary operation"
The Farmers Guardian quotes Peter Morris, chief executive of the National Sheep Association: “What is for sure is that if this disease beats us then the entire British livestock industry will be in real trouble.” He has said that making vaccination compulsory was not likely "because then it would become yet another bureaucratic and costly procedure" and that administering the vaccine would also likely be "a farmer hands-on voluntary operation – with the industry itself making sure there was the maximum uptake"

February 16 2008 ~DEFRA is unlikely to consider it worthwhile applying for co-funding.
Farmers Weekly in the article Producers face £20m bluetongue vaccine bill “Even taking in to account the effect of any possible co-funding, the costs of a compulsory programme still significantly outweigh the costs of a voluntary one. In addition to extra enforcement and administration costs, the terms of the UK’s rebate as outlined under the Fontainebleau agreement mean the real value of any co-funding is only around one-third of anything awarded, further reducing the incentive to apply. The document also notes that any funding could only be claimed after the programme has been delivered and would be subject to audits."(Or, as a rather more cynical emailer puts it, " It will be voluntary as this means less paperwork and less cost to Defra - they have lost the capacity to cope with exotic disease....")

February 15 2008 ~ Fort Dodge: "It's so difficult to pluck numbers out of the air"
The UK Managing Director of Fort Dodge is hoping that once factories in Ireland and in Holland are working to capacity as well as the factory in Spain, the company will be able to go full-steam ahead on BTV-8 vaccine production. But vaccine companies cannot use their own knowledge of how many doses they think are required if governments are then not going to pay for them. And the UK position on payment is still very unclear - (even, we understand, to the point of querying whether vaccine companies themselves would be prepared to charge farmers directly and then pass money on to DEFRA.) John Hanley today spoke of the need for firm orders to be placed and the reluctant necessity of supplying vaccine on a first come, first served basis:
"There is still time to sort it out, but only if decisions are made by the end of March or early April. After that it will be too late for 2008." The company is hoping to receive the go-ahead for production in Sligo within the next few days. Fort Dodge is already supplying vaccine for serotype 1 and 4 to combat Bluetongue in Spain and Southern France from its factory in Spain. (See also for Feb 11) As we say below using only one vaccine producer has drawbacks. Batch failures can happen. It is essential to reach the percentage coverage necessary to halt the disease - but the UK has ordered, from Intervet alone, 22.5 million doses. Many are wondering if this can possibly be enough.

February 15 2008 ~ Another imported case. This time, Northern Ireland
"....a dairy cow in County Antrim imported from the Netherlands. "This investigation will help determine if disease is circulating but at this time there is no evidence to suggest that it is. Therefore at this time the north's bluetongue free status remains."The news comes just 9 days after the Ulster Farmers Union said that the current controls in place to prevent the disease emerging in Northern Ireland needed to be reviewed.

February 15 2008 ~ Bluetongue: DEFRA has updated relevant pages
Latest information (updated yesterday on the DEFRA site) of the premises infected during January and February. Summary here (without map references) We note that the DEFRA notifiable disease page does now make a distinction between confirmed investigations (final positive result) "for January" (two) and for "February" (fifteen)

February 15 2008 ~ "While livestock is suffering, the bureaucrats are fighting over budgets."
Many now watch in growing dismay the difference in approach shown by France, Germany, Wales, Scotland and England to the growing threat to Northern Europe's livestock farming from Bluetongue - and the need for timely, full, vaccination coverage. "I am fuming with rage," writes a correspondent, "there are more stupid press releases out.. uncertainties will considerably delay a vaccination campaign".In Germany, according to (in German)
the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute, as the German national authority responsible for the evaluation and licensing of bluetongue vaccines, is reluctant to grant a marketing licence for inactivated BTV8 vaccines. The institute claims that the documentation, provided by vaccine manufacturers so far, is inadequate.At Wednesday's meeting of the agricultural workgroup of the Bundestag, the federal German Ministry (BMELV) is quoted by participants as questioning the safety and efficiency of the vaccine. The Ministry is considering a field study but details are not known yet. These uncertainties will considerably delay a vaccination campaign on a broader scale. Our correspondent's irate opinion: " The Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute can't be bothered to conduct the necessary research into the ongoing BTV epidemic - for alleged lack of funding. The approach towards the licensing of the vaccines is merely a way to put the heat on again and secure research grants. While livestock is suffering, the bureaucrats are fighting over budgets."

February 15 2008 ~ France - "has launched a nation-wide vaccination campaign"
France, on the other hand, seems to be getting prepared for a well funded campaign to begin in April. Reuters " ...Vaccination will start in April and all cattle, goats and sheep should be treated against serotype the end of the year, the ministry said in a statement. The campaign will also target serotype 1.... The French market was split in three lots, two for vaccines against the serotype 8 and one against the serotype 1. Fort Dodge Animal Health, a division of U.S. pharmaceutical company Wyeth .., won the first lot for the serotype vaccine and the second lot was to be attributed this week, a farm ministry spokeswoman said. As for the serotype 1 vaccine, France chose the company Intervet..... She did not immediately have the volume for each of these lots but said that by the end of August some 30 million doses would be available to vaccinate 15 million cattle and more than 10 million small ruminants, including goats and sheep."UPDATE Reuters has got it wrong, Fort Dodge is producing Zulvac1 (BTV1) and Intervet Bovilis BTV8

February 14 2008 ~ "NBA Scotland cannot understand the risk the Scottish Government is prepared to take by not ordering bluetongue vaccine for general use on livestock farms this summer."
The National Beef Association continues to be aghast at Scotland's continuing Canute approach. See also article on
".... alarmed that while the Scottish Government says it would be prepared to spend up to £10 million on financing a national vaccination programme, should bluetongue rampage towards the Scottish border later this year, it is ready to gamble on only 100-200 Scottish animals being infected over 2008 – and prefers to hold back its funding until 2009 instead. .....“NBA Scotland has no doubt that adequate supplies of vaccine should be available to beef and sheep farmers this summer because it not only shields their animals, and their business, from a debilitating disease but also prevents farmers who have not vaccinated their stock facing additional cost through being cut off from regular markets in those areas of Britain where vaccination has taken place.” Scotland's Mr Lockhead says he will order BTV8 vaccine "when necessary" but, like the National Beef Association, one wonders whether this means that vaccine can be delivered when needed at the right cost. If coverage is to be achieved for Scotland vaccine stocks should be ordered immediately - and one can only repeat what the ProMed moderator said a month ago: "...The 3rd disease season is expected to commence in the due spring 2008, when large populations of susceptible animals may be exposed to BTV-8 for the 1st time, particularly in areas such as Wales and Scotland.... their timely vaccination is essential.").

February 14 2008 ~ First case (imported) in Wales "We remain free of the disease" says Christianne Glossop
An imported sheep has tested positive for the disease in the Llandysul area in Ceredigion. BBC "The sheep, which was one of a group of 14 from the Netherlands, tested positive for the virus following routine post import testing. The assembly government said it was an isolated case and it was not confirmed the disease is circulating in Wales. Chief veterinary officer Dr Christianne Glossop said: "There is nothing to suggest the virus is circulating in Wales and we remain free of the disease."The Farmers Guardian adds that "the restricted zone includes a section of Powys, cutting the Brecon Beacons in half; along with all or parts of: Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Vale of Glamorgan, Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot, Cardiff, Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil."

February 13 ~ By 14:00 on 13 February 2008 there were 79 confirmed premises
The DEFRA notifiable disease page last updated today, February 13, shows that confirmed investigations (final positive result) "for January" now stand at 11. Since this is two more "for January" than were confirmed on Monday - and would seem, assuming they have merely forgotten to update the month, that the two more infected cases were confirmed in February. The BBC - who always gets the news before anyone else, it seems, says " A new bluetongue protection zone has been set up after a fresh case of the animal disease was identified. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the case was found near Poole, in Dorset. The zone covers Dorset and the New Forest. Three new cases have also been found in Sussex, Essex and Norfolk. Protection zones there have been extended. ..." The new map is now on the DEFRA update page.

February 12 ~ Meetings in Wales
"An expert analysis of how bluetongue could affect the industry in the year ahead will be a centrepoint of two important regional conferences for stakeholders that will be staged by Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales in the next eight days. The events take place tomorrow at Clunderwen, Pembrokeshire and the following Wednesday, February 20, at Llanwrst...appraisals on how it may influence 2008 will be provided at the Pembrokeshire event by Roger Daniel, of Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Carmarthen and a week later by Les Eckford, the Welsh Assembly Government’s veterinary adviser, at the Llanwrst venue......Tomorrow’s event at the Nantyffin Hotel, Llandissilio, Clunderwen, Pembrokeshire, starts at 10am with a talk by Dr Prysor Williams, of Bangor University, on seeking an alternative method to deal with fallen stock...." Details at

Monday Feb 11 2008 ~ Two more cases over the weekend?
According to DEFRA's notifiable disease page last updated today, February 11, confirmed investigations (final positive result) now stand at 9 Bluetongue cases whereas they were at 7 on Friday. Nothing has yet changed on the "Bluetongue Latest" page however. Once again, we do not know for certain how things stand.

Monday Feb 11 2008 ~ "For regions affected for the first time in 2007, saving the costs for blood tests, whole herd vaccination would be the preferred option"
Informed comment from Sabine Zentis Extract
"... in the regions affected for a second time during 2007, seroprevalence in cattle is high enough to go for vaccination of youngstock only. But this is dependent on good surveillance and one has to take into account different farming systems. Cattle in open barns on straw and access to fields/pasture show a seroprevalence of 95-100%. But in cattle kept on slats/slurry systems and in regions with a lower than average livestock density only up to 50% of animals are seropositive. In these cases it is either test every animal and vaccinate accordingly or vaccinate the whole herd without testing. For the regions affected for the first time in 2007, saving the costs for blood tests, whole herd vaccination would be the preferred option All sheep (and maybe goats) should be vaccinated as seroprevalence is, compared to cattle, rather low..."Frau Zentis also says, ".. That farmers are forced to pay for surveillance (pre-movement testing) is an issue that should be questioned by the NFU, NBA etc. Countries can claim back expenditure for surveillance so farmers shouldn't pay the bill..."

Monday Feb 11 2008 ~ The vexed question of EU funding to help us eradicate disease...
did not get much further enlightenment when, last Thursday, Jim Paice asked the Secretary of State "whether he intends to apply to the European Commission for an emergency vaccination programme for bluetongue disease; and how he plans to provide for the remaining costs of such a programme.." Hansard. We note that EU contributions to endemic or high risk areas
"for the cost of carrying out the laboratory tests for virological, serological and entomological surveillance and the purchase of traps and vaccines... "were agreed last November. The UK is not included.

February 11 2008 ~ what is really behind the UK reluctance to apply for EU funding for Bluetongue?
It is hard not to feel confused and informed comment would be most gratefully received.The Commission Decision of 12 October 2006 (pdf) shows maximum contributions offered to qualifying Member States for various animal disease related costs. Thus we see that towards costs connected to the eradication of BSE, scrapie and TSEs, for example, the UK ( the Fontainbleue Agreement notwithstanding) seems to have been allocated a maximum of almost 100 million euros in total . How much of this was received - and over how long a period? Can anyone tell us? If for BSE why not for Bluetongue? (Fears about scrapie as a cause of BSE were finally admitted to be unfounded and last February Ben Bradshaw admitted "... the prevalence of BSE in the UK sheep population is most likely zero, or very low if present at all." see Warmwell's scrapie pages) Last November the European Commission approved 187 million euros to fight animal diseases in 2008. (This is less than last year and is not likely to be anywhere near enough even to cover the cost of BTv vaccination as offered to Member States.) The programmes for the eradication and monitoring of bluetongue submitted by Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia were approved for the period from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2008. Where was - or is - the UK's programme? Why the UK reluctance to apply for funding for Bluetongue? Many are now saying that DEFRA wants a voluntary scheme paid for by farmers simply because this means less paperwork and less cost to the severely cash-strapped Department. The grim suspicion remains that Defra has lost both the will and the capacity to cope with exotic disease. Although they refer (as below) to experts consulted, the names of those "experts" consulted never seem to get revealed.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Recent Updates - but for pictures and links please go to the main Bluetongue Pages on

( )

Click here

Sunday 10th Feb ~ Infection predates "non vector period"?

    ProMed moderator: "The interpretation of official data on detected BT-positive animals during the so-called "non-vector period" is debatable. If, as suggested in the above report, the infection had taken place before the start of the period, these are not new cases but just reflections of last year's (2007) outbreak. .....According to this moderator's understanding, to detect virus/vector activity during the declared "no-vector season," at least one of the following should be met:
    1. Clinical cases observed, confirmed by virus isolation (during the viraemia);
    2. Virus isolated from subclinical cases (possible by weekly blood sampling in sentinels);
    3. Infected vectors trapped;
    4. Seroconversion clearly demonstrated in sentinels which have been tested negative at the start of the season and became positive later.
    It seems that the same doubts on the out-of-season BTV-8 activity are encountered in continental Europe..... An official view of EU's BT experts panel on the current situation -- "active or not?!" -- will be helpful...." Read in full

February 9 2008 ~ More surveillance testing is needed.

    The experts at Pirbright themselves have said they would like to carry out much more surveillance for Bluetongue but no funding appears to be forthcoming. While it is of course true that DEFRA is as short of funds as the rest of the UK government it is hard to understand how ignorance and parsimony have been allowed to direct such vital disease control strategies. The horse of brucellus testing bolted in 2007 (without prior consultation . See letter in The Veterinary Record) but what great dividends such routine surveillance to test a selected population for several pathogens at once would now be reaping. As it is, DEFRA's reluctance to spend any money on extra testing means we are in real danger of losing much of our livestock farming. Cheap farm produce from far away will be imported - for as long as this remains possible. The UK government's evident wish to shrug off its responsibilites for farming ignores the fact that recession looks more of a reality with every passing week.

February 9 2008 ~ "Surveillance must be targeted effectively ... we are making good use of data from existing infected premises, tracings, report cases and pre-movement testing"

    So said Jonathan Shaw on Wednesday. When David Drew (Hansard) asked what plans there were to improve surveillance against bluetongue disease, Mr Shaw said " We have taken advice from the National Emergency Epidemiology Group and are actively discussing the detail of our bluetongue surveillance strategy with other experts and stakeholders." But who are these people and what are they saying? Meanwhile, we remain in the dark about whether a voluntary vaccination campaign is still seriously being contemplated and whether livestock farmers themselves, reeling from recent hardships, will be expected to foot all bills. If such is still the plan, it will fail. We, as a nation, have something worth defending. There is so much at stake that it is frustrating to fear that the Treasury fails to understand the issues.

February 9 2008 ~ The number of cattle infected in 2007 in the UK will be in the thousands.

    Dr Ruth Watkins thinks it would be safe to move sheep without testing during the so-called "vector free" period Since they are infectious for a shorter period than cattle, they are unlikely to be playing a role in re-emergence of the virus next Spring nor are they the preferred target of female midges. Dr Watkins believes that very few sheep will be found to have been silently infected in comparison to cattle since the proportion of infected sheep that become visually ill is roughly 10 times that of infected cattle.
      " The EFSA report in Spring 2007 showed that the infection rate in sheep flocks in 2006 was 1-2 % whilst in cattle it was 10% or more where one instance of clinical infection had been documented." (See EFSA report (pdf))
    The actual number of infected farms is, she feels sure, more than 10-fold the current reported number. The number of cattle infected in 2009 in the UK will be in the thousands.

February 8 2008 ~ Midges dancing in the vector-free period

    The UK has, it seems, detected 8 cases of BT during January when, according to DEFRA, the midges are not present. The DEFRA site now reads "As at 16:00 on 8 February 2008 there were 75 confirmed premises" - but information is as sparse as ever and one wonders if Defra still "believe they were infected prior to a vector-free period being declared".
    Locks Park Farm in Devon has shown a photo on its blog with the caption "Midges flying over Hanaborough Moor 7th February 2008"
      "...It is hoped, according to DEFRA, there will be enough BTV-8 vaccine ready to carry out vaccination in the South East during May. There is no indication of a more comprehensive vaccination programme this year, next year or ever..."
    and the writer comments wearily: "It seems extraordinary to me that some people appear to be acting as if it’s a mild inconvenience. This disease is potentially devastating; especially to an already beleaguered livestock industry. And I don’t know if I have the heart or energy left to cope with a farm of sick and dying animals. This could be the death-knoll for Locks Park Farm."
    (The new case was discovered in Greater London, and a new 20km zone around the latest case covers parts of west and north London as well as extending into Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire in the UK Defra said. Sure enough, they also opined that "All of the animals are thought to have been infected before the ``vector-free period'', which was declared in December")

February 7 2008 ~ Using only one vaccine producer has drawbacks

    Intervet expects "to have more insight in the overall production capacities by March” (see below) but there are drawbacks to putting all our eggs into the basket of one producer alone. The BTV-8 vaccines are being rushed through because of this emergency but it is important that dose volume is confirmed and, as we imply below the efficiency of the vaccine shown through appropriate challenge studies. Reactions to vaccine in animals can be affected by their age, species, size of dose and whether they have had some measure of acquired immunity. Batch failures can happen. It is essential to reach the percentage coverage necessary to halt the disease. (See note on Corsica)
    Fort Dodge and Merial are, of course, also producing vaccines to fight Bluetongue. As we know, Merial's efforts to accelerate production of BTV-8 vaccine were held up by the revocation of their licence (see below) by DEFRA itself. Fort Dodge is to supply the serotype 1 vaccine to France in its combat against Bluetongue serotype 1 in the southwest corner of France. The company expects to start delivering the vaccine in the coming months. We hope to have news shortly about Fort Dodge's development of BTV-8 vaccines and also news on Merial.

February 6 2008 ~ Surveillance Zone extended further into Dorset.

    See Dorset Daily Echo "The latest areas to be brought in include North Dorset, Purbeck and Poole, which join farms in East Dorset, Christchurch and Bournemouth which are already in the zone. The main requirements are that animals must be tested as disease-free or immune for movements to farm or market. Farmers need to call their vets to arrange the test..."

February 5 2008 ~ No problem vaccinating outside the Protection Zone - provided the area is then designated "Protection Zone"

    We are told that the question of where to vaccinate was raised at the Brussels conference of January 16th. Although no commentators seem to have picked up on it, Albert Laddomada (head of the unit responsible for animal health and relevant EU standing committees) told the conference that this was not a problem: i.e. if a country wants to vaccinate outside the PZ it has only to declare the region where it intends to vaccinate as a Protection Zone. All the restrictions, surveillance, vector monitoring etc. will have to be applied in this region.

February 4/5 2008 ~ A presentation by Intervet given in Germany has raised some concern about the immunity of cattle

    (see pdf slide (in German))
      BTV8 - Efficiency-Profile cattle:
    • Two injections at the age of 2 to 4 months
    • 2 weeks after 2 vaccination- challenge by injection
    • Detection of viraemia using PCR
    • All control-animals viraemic, no clinical symptoms
    • Some animals no viraemia only low level viraemia and shorter duration of viraemia in vaccinated animals that were positive
    There was no information available on the number of animals in the vaccine trial but our understanding is that in some animals the vaccine may not be inducing a strong enough immunity to prevent them from becoming infected. Emailed comment would be gratefully received.
    We understand that Merial should have the Pirbright licence restored from today. One wonders how their vaccine trials compare with those of Intervet.

February 4/5 2008 ~ There are no cheap short cuts to eliminate the disease and prevent its spreading to the whole of Europe and Northern Asia.

    Markos Kyprianou asserted that "Prevention is better than cure" and urged a harmonised attack - but where are the Member States' policies to achieve this?
    Even though the UK's particular case (because of the Fontainebleau Agreement) means we can't expect anywhere near the full 100% compensation for vaccine and 50% costs, the UK government would be tragically short-sighted not to insist on a compulsory campaign. Farmers must be helped to vaccinate their stock. A voluntary campaign restricted to the Protection Zone and in which farmers themselves are made to pay would be useless. Unless the UK Bluetongue policy allows vaccination outside the Protection Zone (a grave error by the EU to limit it to the PZ) and unless it covers at least the necessary percentage of susceptible animals, we have, to put it bluntly, had it.
    In Corsica's fight against BTV 2 in 2001, as this French Ministry ppt presentation (in French) shows, when coverage was less than 70% the virus spread. When, however, in the winter of 2001/2002, coverage was better than 85%, there were no further cases. Can we not learn from others? Here, for example, is Dr Ruth Watkins' strategy We have not seen anything better.

Monday February 4 2008 ~ The 4 new cases are in Kent, Essex and Haywards Heath

    According to the Farmers Guardian Defra still "believe they were infected prior to a vector-free period being declared"... (A faith that could, perhaps, move mountains and one that at least serves to attempt to absolve the authorities of premature action. The idea of a "vector free period" has no scientific basis at all as far as we can see. )
    The Protection Zone has now been extended into Sussex whilst the Surveillance Zone has been widened to cover parts of Dorset (see below). The FG quotes Paul van Aarle, director of institutional sales at Intervet “We can now provide a safe and efficacious vaccine helping to fight this devastating disease. We are currently optimizing the production process and we expect to have more insight in the overall production capacities by March.”

Friday February 1 2008 ~ "We desperately need the vaccine but Defra won’t tell us what its intentions are."

    The Cumbrian vet David Black is quoted today in the Cumberland News
      "Some people would pay the money to vaccinate their animals; but if they’re outside the protection zone it will be illegal. We need the vaccine available by March. Cattle need two doses while sheep need one.”
    David Black is putting into words the bafflement and frustration felt by many who want to know what the present situation really is. Are doses to be restricted to areas of the country already within bluetongue protection or surveillance zones? Will DEFRA order more vaccine as the NFU are now requesting? Are we really to have a voluntary campaign with sheep farmers expected to find the money (using separate needles each time) to vaccinate their sheep?

Friday February 1 2008 ~ The new zones following today's announcement of Bluetongue

    DEFRA announced today the extension of the Bluetongue Protection and Surveillance Zones, following confirmation of disease on four premises within the current Protection Zone. See website "The zones have been extended further into Sussex and Dorset, in accordance with the UK Bluetongue Control Strategy and EU legislation. The infected animals were found as a result of pre-movement testing currently required in the vector-free period. All evidence suggests that these animals were infected before the vector-free period commenced..." (One wonders what "evidence" is referred to.)

Friday February 1 2008 ~ Not enough doses ordered...dawning realisation

    When the first Intervet doses of vaccine are ready, in May we hope, the first 2-3 million doses will be used in the Protection Zone that exists then. Then, according to the Farmers Guardian, the focus will shift westwards, ".. with the south coast a possible early target, due to the risk of the virus spreading from France.... There is no clear picture at this stage as to how much of the country will ultimately be covered. This will depend on demand and the disease situation. But with 60 million livestock resident across the UK, cattle having to be vaccinated twice and a predicted high demand among farmers, despite vaccination almost certainly being voluntary, the NFU council called for an urgent review of the numbers ordered so far..."

Friday February 1 2008 ~ New scares in Herefordshire, Hertfordshire and Sussex. NFU urges more vaccine to be ordered

    As the Farmers Guardian went to press today, "there was still a degree of concern as PCR results were awaited from a number of other farms in the Surveillance Zone, where blood tests on livestock appeared to be positive. It is understood these include farms in Herefordshire, Hertfordshire and Sussex. Thousands of animals have been pre-movement tested so they can be moved out of the Bluetongue zones since the start of the vector free period just before Christmas. Meanwhile, members of the NFU council have urged Defra to consider ordering more Bluetongue vaccine now because of fears the 22.5 million ordered so far might not be enough..."

Thursday January 31 2008 ~ 60% infection among Dutch cattle.

    The Dutch agricultural newspaper is reporting (in Dutch) that 60 percent of cattle are infected by bluetongue. The information comes from Gezondheidsdienst voor Dieren GD and is based on the monitoring of 250 test farms. One of their experts is Daan Dercksen who is currently a speaker at the bluetongue information meetings in the UK

Tuesday January 29 2008 ~ "huge turnout of farmers for the East Midlands NFU bluetongue meeting

    Farmers Guardian "Dutch vet Daan Dercksen outlined how rapidly the disease had spread in Europe....because there was more of it in circulation. ....we had an 18-month advantage – as a vaccination programme would hopefully be implemented soon....
    Mr Dercksen said that as bluetongue was a blood-transmitted disease a separate needle would be required for each dose of vaccine. This caused concern ...
    ...Dr Ian Frood, chairman of the NFU East Anglian Livestock Board... said it was likely that vaccination would be voluntary not compulsory but would only work if at least 80 per cent of livestock was vaccinated..... a possibility funding might be available from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDP) to educate and, possibly, train farmers to administer the vaccine. The audience questioned how voluntary vaccination would be policed and recorded. ... unable to give a definitive answer as to the cost, but said that it is likely to be between 50p to £1 per dose, and hopefully closer to 50p." Read article

Tuesday January 29 2008 ~ mass-vaccination should be adapted to the unfolding situation - "beyond the declared protection and surveillance zones"

    "Planning for the shortly due mass-vaccination should be adapted to the unfolding situation, targeting protection by the immunization of susceptible animals within broader areas than initially suggested, namely also in BT-receptive areas beyond the declared protection and surveillance zones. The vaccination should preferably cover more than 80 per cent of the susceptible stock." Moderator's comment ProMed

Tuesday January 29 2008 ~ "The next stage should be to persuade the EC to bring its rules pertaining to vaccination against Bluetongue (and indeed other viral diseases of livestock) up to date and relevant to the current situation."

    Dr James Irvine on the NBA Press Release stating that they want to have a meeting with the Scottish Government in order to get BT vaccine ordered for Scotland before the virus gets there.
      ".... At present, inappropriate regulations stand in the way of effective disease control. Specifically, the EC rule that forbids Bluetongue vaccination in an allegedly Bluetongue-free zone must be changed. Using the device to artificially designate a Bluetongue-free zone as a Protected Zone, in order to get around this rule, is folly. It would, under other EC rules, allow a free flow of potentially infected cattle from high risk areas to come into the Bluetongue virgin territory of Scotland during the six weeks before vaccination could be fully effective. That would be a recipe for disaster."
    Dr Irvine will be addressing the Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in early March on the application of science (or rather the lack of it) with regard to Scotland's livestock industry. See also Bluetongue meetings offer a chance to learn from European experience

Monday January 28 2008 ~ National Beef Association wants vaccine ordered for Scotland

    The NBA " has written to cabinet secretary, Richard Lochhead, calling for an urgent meeting at which it will ask the Scottish government to buy stocks of bluetongue (BT) vaccine. The move comes after the Association’s Scottish Council unanimously agreed that without access to suitable quantities of vaccine Scotland would be unable to protect itself against a virus which could create severe economic and welfare problems for all its livestock farmers...." See

Monday January 28 2008 ~ SVS vets expected to confirm Cheshire and Shropshire scare was false alarm

    Welsh Daily Post "...Routine pre-movement blood tests on two farms gave inconclusive results over the weekend. One is believed to have been in the Oswestry area involving cattle. The other is thought to have been in Greater Manchester involving sheep. The tests provoked widespread alarm because, if confirmed, the existing bluetongue restriction zone would have been extended to cover much of Wales. .... Defra has since performed a second set of tests using the PCR system and it is understood these were negative. This is likely to be confirmed later today."
    UPDATEBluetongue relief for Wales and Farms get bluetongue all-clear Manchester Evening News

Sunday January 27 2008 ~ Scotland: Bluetongue meetings offer a chance to learn from European experience has organised this and has full details. "On Friday 22nd February 2008 at 7.30pm, the Scottish Borders at Berwickshire High School, Duns Friday 22nd February at 7.30pm (prompt) (venue changed from Grantshouse Village Hall) Program:
      Chairman: Frank Langrish - The Chairman of the British Wool Marketing Board and a farmer in the BT Protection Zone in the South East who has also had Bluetongue in his flock
        Speakers: Dr. Ruth Watkins – The Virologist and a farmer in Wales. The author of a Bluetongue Vaccination policy circulated to DEFRA and the EU
        Dr. Dan Dercksen – The veterinarian from Holland who has experienced the diagnosis and treatment of Bluetongue
        George Milne –The Regional Secretary and Development Officer for the National Sheep Association (Scotland)
      Followed by Questions "
    Space is limited Phone 01361-850324 or 0795-7811-463

January 26 2008 ~ new cases of bluetongue in Shropshire and Cheshire

    Farmers Weekly "...A source close to DEFRA told Farmers Weekly that the cases which had been discovered in the last few days were not believed to have been found in imported animals, suggesting the animals had been infected by UK midges carrying the disease. .... it could mean the extension of the protection zone into Wales and further towards the south west of England, possibly as far south as Bristol. It will also have an impact on vaccination plans, with more farmers likely to be in the zone due to receive vaccine first."

January 25 2008 ~ The vaccination campaign in Holland will start in May (in Dutch) says that the Dutch department for agriculture has ordered six million doses of bluetongue vaccine from Intervet. The vaccination campaign in Holland will start in May and the first one million doses of vaccine will be available in that month. A month later Intervet will supply another million with the full order to be delivered completely by August. The costs of the vaccine will be paid for by the EU which will also pay a maximum of 50 percent of the vaccination costs (perhaps less than this). It will be a voluntary campaign but Warmwell is told by a Dutch stakeholder that "in Holland 80% will not be difficult to get, because all involved want no repetition of last year".

January 25 2008 ~ "While nothing has been finalised, vaccination will almost certainly be voluntary....and lack of surveillance is worrying.

    "....vaccination will almost certainly be voluntary with farmers having full responsibility for paying for and arranging it for their livestock." Farmers Guardian today.

January 25 2008 ~ "Surveillance and vaccination are two sides of the same coin"

    "Defra urged to step up bluetongue surveillance" says ythe Farmers Guardian which today quotes Dr Chris Oura (IAH) who said at the NFU/IAH meeting that the UK was not yet complying with European Commission rules on surveillance.
      "The EC is demanding certain levels of surveillance and we have to move towards it. Surveillance and vaccination are two sides of the same coin. We need to know exactly where to vaccinate,"
    Dr Oura says proper surveillance is necessary to identify the extent of the outbreak and "pinpoint where infection is located in order to formulate an effective vaccination strategy". Frank Langrish said at the meeting that surveillance in South East England had been 'non- existent', and the Essex farmer, Ian Frood, is quoted as saying farmers representatives had been 'singularly unsuccessful' in persuading Defra to put sufficient resources into surveillance.

January 24 2008 ~ "...practically compulsory by creating pressure on farmers..."

    The pdf file (Defra website) of the vaccination working group on Tuesday 8 January 2008 reports that Kevin Pearce suggested the scheme should be promoted as practically compulsory, by creating pressure on farmers regarding the importance of vaccination to protect the country."
    Creating pressure on farmers?
    One reads, ".....On compulsory vaccination, even retrieving the additional costs back from industry require an additional cost. Retrieving and redistributing funds from the Commission would also be a complex process. Kevin Pearce suggested the scheme should be promoted as practically compulsory, by creating pressure on farmers regarding the importance of vaccination to protect the country.
    Action: Philip Reed to produce a short paper on the reasons behind the decision made for a voluntary and not a compulsory scheme....." (Read as HTML) There was another meeting of the group yesterday. It will be interesting to see what progress was made.

January 24 2008 ~ Farmers still to be " offered the opportunity to purchase vaccine from the bank.."

    On Monday (22 Jan) when David Drew MP asked Jonathan Shaw (Hansard) why the decision was taken to source and supply the anti-bluetongue virus vaccine from one supplier only, Mr Shaw replied ".... we chose Intervet as the preferred bidder on the basis of technical specification, delivery timetable and price...." Unfortunately, he then went on to repeat:
      "Livestock keepers will be offered the opportunity to purchase vaccine from the bank ..."
    One can only hope that the government comes to see that if they were financially to support the scheme necessary to achieve 80% coverage in the Protection Zone - and it must be a compulsory scheme - the price paid to support our farmers would be insignificant compared to the potential losses. Sheepfarmers are now so battered financially by recent hardships that if they are required to pay, many will simply fail to vaccinate or else just leave farming. The lost farming expertise would be irreplaceable, the effect on the landscape would be irreversible and the hold taken by the virus would be even harder to get rid of when vaccines are more plentiful in 2009.

January 22 2008 ~ Intervet's news about its vaccine

    Our attention has been drawn to Intervet's own news release about the bluetongue vaccine serotype 8, for sheep and cattle. "The vaccine has been taken into production now. Intervet is aiming to deliver the first quantities of vaccine in May."

January 21 2008 ~ "mild symptoms suggesting that infection occurred in December and even early January.."

    Dr Watkins writes with her usual grasp and succinct style. Extract:
      My sister's herd is having PCR testing by Micropathology Ltd UK- the 12 adult cows and 3 bulls, to see how many in addition to (the infected cow) Duchess have been infected. Some have had mild symptoms suggesting that infection occurred in December and even early January. No surprise if you look at those European epidemiology results published by EFSA As Osinga and others have suggested, it may be more effective to apply limited vaccine summer 2008 in the surveillance zone to prevent spread. There seem to be no veterinary clinical virologists who have generated plans for vaccination that can be looked at and adopted. There are politicos and research scientists and no one in between. I wonder what will happen by 31st of January .."
    Read in full

January 21 2008 ~ the beginnings of a ground swell for vaccination in Scotland

    Dr James Irvine writes to warmwell that he has "put a piece up on in relation to a recent meeting in Scotland when the Scottish Government Senior Veterinary Adviser made comments on his Department's policy on Bluetongue vaccination in Scotland. At least at this meeting there was the beginnings of a ground swell for vaccination. Most of those present had reservations about the approach taken by the Scottish Government authorities." A fascinating article. Extract
      "...Frankly, if an adviser on human health had stated such an approach towards the risk of arrival of a disease that affected humans he would be out of office by public demand within hours....I fear that the SVS may have been unduly influenced in their approach by the epidemiological modellers. Remember how they got things so very wrong in Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) UK2001?"
    Read in full One Scottish farmer is quoted: "We are waltzing into a disaster here. Surely we need a vaccine available for 2008. It is wishful thinking that Bluetongue will not be here soon".

Jan 20 2008 ~ Report of the conference at the IAH laboratory at Compton, Newbury

    The IAH/NFU conference last Thursday January 17 covered how bluetongue arrived in the country last year, how it spread, the impact of the virus on livestock, vaccination, the control strategy, and what producers can expect in 2008. The IAH webpage has links to the presentations

Jan 20 2008 ~" they have to opt for compulsory vaccination because otherwise they won't reach the target and Brussels won't pay"

    Sabine Zentis cuts through the talking in circles that seems to have gone on last Wednesday.
      "...The Commission says : we will co- finance mass emergency vaccination so everyone knows money is available if at least 80% of susceptible animals are vaccinated. To achieve this you have to implement compulsory vaccination.
      The countries say : we will vaccinate but we have to decide yet whether we make the campaign compulsory or voluntary because we don't know yet what programmes the Commission is funding
      This is the cat chasing its tail and this sort of discussion can go on till the cows come home or unless someone has the brains to stand up and tell the plain, simple facts :
      Why the representatives of Member States attending are still dragging along beats me. They have to opt for compulsory vaccination because otherwise they won't reach the target and Brussels won't pay."
    It seems that Wednesday's Brussels meeting did not quite achieve the "a harmonised approach to vaccination across the entire European Union" and the " the outline of a European strategy for vaccination against bluetongue, based on the support and contribution of the experts" pleaded for by Markos Kyprianou. But one thing to be pleased about is that the UK has at least actually ordered vaccine while many others continue to dither.

Jan 19 2008 ~ Scotland -"rigorous monitoring"

    The Herald quotes Nigel Miller today:
      "it is reassuring to know that there will be rigorous monitoring to ensure that all animals entering Scotland from any restricted zone are properly tested before leaving the bluetongue zone in England. "However, NFU Scotland still has concerns that, as we move nearer to the end of the vector-free period and the temperatures start to rise, this will not be enough. We have, therefore, called for post-movement testing of animals coming from restricted zones in England to be put in place to ensure that we have further safeguards to help ensure that Scotland can remain bluetongue free."
    (King Canute comes to mind again. Scotland needs to order vaccine as soon as possible. As the ProMed moderator's comment explains: "...The 3rd disease season is expected to commence in the due spring 2008, when large populations of susceptible animals may be exposed to BTV-8 for the 1st time, particularly in areas such as Wales and Scotland.... Their timely vaccination is essential.")

Jan 19 2008 ~ First hand report - Brussels Bluetongue Conference

    We are very grateful to have received this succinct and clear report from Christine Bijl of the European Livestock Association. The report includes a brief description of the views of each of the six stakeholder groups who were given ten minutes each to give presentations.

Jan 18 2008 ~ Conclusions - Conference on “Vaccination strategy against bluetongue” Brussels, 16 January 2008

    The "conclusions"pdf file opens in new window and a page of links and pdf files relevant to the conference can be found at - including a very interesting presentation by Klaas Johan Osinga, Vice Chairman, COPA-COGECA Working Group “Animal Health & Welfare” which includes, (in a presentation worth reading in full), the following:
      Common EU-wide strategy on vaccination needed
    1. What will be the rules of the game in 2008 and beyond? Need for a long-term BT vaccination and monitoring strategy –farmers need clarity and up-to-date relevant information (e.g. BT-Net)
    2. .Train and trust the farmers enough to allow them to vaccinate themselves their animals
    3. .Are the rules for EU co-financing in 2008 clear to Member States and stakeholders ?
    4. .What EU financing will be available in 2009 and beyond?
    5. .Does the strategy take into account that many animals have built up sufficient immunity after infection / maternal immunity?
    Read in full

Jan 18 2008 ~ "vaccination will, almost certainly, be on a voluntary, rather than compulsory, basis" the pronouncemenrt of "the DEFRA observer" present at the joint NFU/IAH conference, according to Farmers Weekly today, "and producers inside the protection zone would be the first to be offered the chance to protect stock.
    Then, livestock in a "buffer zone" outside the protection zone (probably about 20km wide) would be treated next and the buffer zone would gradually edge west until England is covered. However, no one in attendance could estimate how long it would take to cover England or that the minimum 80% coverage needed to ensure success would be achieved." Read article.

Jan 18 2008 ~ the UK government is adamant that farmers must pay. It is called "Responsibility Sharing"

    We understand that "Responsibility Sharing" means the government never having to face compensation bills again ( and it looks as though the Conservatives agree). As one correspondent writes today: "The mass upheaval that will be caused with the reorganisation of DEFRA, particularly financial, won’t help. Brown has taken 1 billion pounds from that side to spend on climate change issues." A familiar story echoed on the other main warmwell page today.

Jan 18 2008 ~ Conditions to achieve eradication are not met, says Dutch Chief Vet

    See ProMed. A Dutch news article is translated by the moderator, AS, quoting Peter de Leeuw, chief veterinarian in the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture (they still have one) , who considers that to attain the goal of eradication "...a common policy of affected countries is required, with the necessary financial support secured for several years. Currently, these conditions are not fulfilled"

January 18 2008 ~ "timely vaccination is essential," says ProMed moderator

    Moderator's comment "...The 3rd disease season is expected to commence in the due spring 2008, when large populations of susceptible animals may be exposed to BTV-8 for the 1st time, particularly in areas such as Wales and Scotland, but also in other vast regions. Their timely vaccination is essential.
    To help close the gap between gained information and its early field utilization, ProMED-mail has offered its services for the early publication of preliminary results, provided they address field-related issues and are of a problem-solving nature."
    (The moderator also gives a link to an EU map of BTV restriction zones, updated on 14 Jan 2008. Since then we have the new outbreak of BTV-8 in Northern Spain.)

Jan 18 2008 ~ "necessity should be readily explainable in order to convince the farmers"

    "The introduction of compulsory vaccination must have a clear reasoning; its necessity should be readily explainable in order to convince the farmers" says Dr. de Leeuw "Past experience regarding compulsory vaccination -- as related to IBR -- was rather negative; therefore, I support voluntary vaccination," and, if financial support is anticipated, "I am convinced that we, in the Netherlands, can achieve 80 percent even on a voluntary basis", said De Leeuw.
    Dr. de Leeuw stresses "A main question is the necessity to include in the plan the vaccination against bluetongue of animals which are immune, since they have already undergone infection." ( For them to be safely excluded requires the accurate registration of animals which have been infected.)

Jan 18 2008 ~ Are these indeed new cases, within the period which is expected to be "non-vector"?!

    ProMed moderator AS: " Information on the incidence of new BTV-8 cases in Europe since the middle of December is rather scanty and seems to lack accuracy. According to EU's Animal Disease Notification System (ADNS, last updated 11 Jan 2008, see at a total of 3 new cases have been recorded since 1 Jan 2008, all in France. Are these indeed new cases, within the period which is expected to be "non-vector"?!
    Since the publication of Sabine Zentis' remarks concerning the need for experts' and researchers' contributions (see in posting 20071219.4080), the scope of (publicly available) knowledge has not widened. Enhanced research efforts addressing the epidemiology of BTV-8 within the European realm, in particular related to its entomological aspects, over-wintering mechanism and genetic susceptibility, seem to still be needed. Animal breeders in 8 European countries have been severely affected by BTV-8 since its initial discovery (Belgium, August 2006). Animal suffering is another issue."

Jan 18 2008 ~ BTV-8 in Spain for the first time - and rather close to the BTV-1 outbreaks

    Yesterday BTV-8 was reported in Spain for the first time. Seven cases were found on a cattle farm. See Wahid interface for details and map.

Jan 18 2008 ~ French livestock farmers want the right to vaccinate their own animals

    The article in says that Intervet's vaccine already has temporary authorisation (ATU) for use and that of Fort Dodge is on the way.
      "As for that of Merial, the hold-up caused by the UK's blocking of their work at the Pirbright site means that their vaccine won't be available before the date initially forecast."
    Although France has decided on an order of precedence for animals to be vaccinated between the end of April and the beginning of August and expects 30 million doses to be available for cattle (ie allowing the vaccination of 15 million) and close to 12 million doses for sheep (hence 6 millions small ruminants can be vaccinated) there is concern that this will not be enough - and the French have not yet finalised their vaccination plan.
    Farmers cannot see why they should not vaccinate their animals themselves but are coming up against EU rules that vaccination should be carried out and certified by vets. Discussions are continuing between the French Agriculture Ministry (they still have one) and the livestock farmers about this - and about who will pay for the remaining 50% of the costs incurred. There seems to be no question in France of farmers being asked to pay for using the vaccine bank itself. (article in French)
The French department of agriculture have reported some new cases with the total number at the beginning of this week standing now at 15,085.

Jan 18 2008 ~ " This is a catch 22 situation..."

    Sabine Zentis sends this preliminary comment about Wednesday's Brussels meeting.
      " Member states are reluctant to plan for compulsory vaccination of all susceptible species as there still is resistance from some farmers and trade organisations. This is a catch 22 situation; Member States aren't committing themselves to a definite plan for emergency vaccination which would mean, to my understanding, compulsory vaccination of a minimum of 80% of susceptible populations - and the Commission isn't giving a clear statement about the actual amount of funding available.
      Trade organisations (meat/livestock) and farmers unions were again dragging their feet and came up with the usual nonsense like trade restrictions for vaccinated animals and a reluctance to accept governmental interference..."
    Vaccine manufacturers continue to feel frustrated about the lack of clear signals from countries about how many doses they're prepared to buy - so cannot give a clear statement on number of vaccine doses.
    There seems to be some disastrous dithering going on - on vaccination plans, on who will pay, on who will be prepared to vaccinate what... Meanwhile, the farmers wait hopefully for informed guidance, the weeks tick by and the midges are gathering.

Jan 17 2008 ~ "Our government must not always be so timid when it comes to asking for our money back from the EU."

    Neil Parish MEP, too, has called on the British Government to take the Commission's offer by declaring an 'emergency' vaccination programme Mr Parish said: "The European Commission will pay most of the costs associated with an emergency vaccination plan, but the British Government must classify the vaccination as an emergency first.
      "If the EU is offering to pay towards the bill, it would be nonsensical to reject it. Our government must not always be so timid when it comes to asking for our money back from the EU. The only long-term solution to Bluetongue is a vaccination programme."
    It is surely going to be embarrassing for DEFRA if they still insist on farmers paying for vaccine in 2008 - a payment that the sheep farmers, in particular, can ill afford.

Jan 17 2008 ~ “I urge the British government to apply for this funding immediately.." Robert Sturdy

    Robert Sturdy, MEP for Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, can apparently can see no good reason for the UK not to apply for the EU grant for 100% vaccine and 50% costs. He is quoted at ".... Outbreaks of animal disease are no longer a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’ and the agricultural industry will need assurances that there are sufficient stockpiles of vaccination available.
    I am delighted with the announcement of the EU’s Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou and hope the British government will take full advantage of his offer. Our government has repeatedly failed its agricultural community. Today is a chance to restore faith in the sustainability of the livestock industry.”

Jan 17 2008 ~ Useful website for Wales on Bluetongue and FMD

    See .g. "Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has written to Hilary Benn to join the tendering process and order 2.5 million doses of bluetongue vaccine which will be made available for purchase by livestock keepers in Wales on a voluntary basis. It is difficult at this stage to predict the extent to which bluetongue will be present when the vaccine becomes available next year. The European Commission has declared that vaccination will be permitted only inside a bluetongue Protection Zone. The Welsh Assembly Government has the power to declare a Protection Zone within Wales if it is considered that enabling vaccination would benefit disease control."

Jan 16 2008 ~ "We count on all of you," says Markos Kyprianou, "This is a shared endeavour."

    The speech given today by the European Commissioner for Health might perhaps be thought a little lacking in actual content: ".... A full commitment from all competent authorities and stakeholders is vital for the emergency vaccination initiative to succeed.
    Only a harmonised approach to vaccination across the entire European Union will give rise to the outcome that all of us want to see. I expect that key issues such as the coverage of this vaccination campaign, the calendar of implementation and the vaccines to be used will be addressed by this conference in a productive way. . ...." Read in full
    (Any actual information about a calendar of implementation and the vaccines to be used that may have emerged from the conference would be most gratefully received.)

January 16 2008 ~ First hand from Brussels. The experienced countries are "pushing for compulsory vaccination".

    "The conference was really interesting but I am not sure it got us any further. Germany has published a tender for 24.4 million doses of vaccine - but are still dragging their feet on a vaccination plan. Countries such as Spain and Italy, with plenty of experience, are pushing for compulsory vaccination to make sure vaccination is conducted properly. They are afraid that BTV 8 might move south and they see vaccination as the only means to stop the virus from spreading. I will send more details shortly..."

January 16 2008 ~ nothing on the DEFRA website about any restoration of the SAPO licence at the Merial site.

    After the Pirbright leak in August, Merial's SAPO licence was finally restored, as Defra reported, on November 6th last year - only to be revoked again on November 23 (although there was no mention of this on the same Defra page that time), following the bio-security 'incident' at the Pirbright site. The Farmers Guardian quoted a Merial spokesman at the time who said, "We are still confident Merial will be able to supply BTV vaccines in time to protect cows and sheep effectively in Europe next year,"
    One can only - three months after he said it - repeat the words of Professor Spratt in October. As the expert appointed by the government to report on the leak, he told the World at One that there was at Merial
      "no risk involved in their continuing work on this so vitally needed vaccine for the whole of Northern Europe".
    Since vaccine was acknowledged to be the only logical way forward a year ago and that, according to Bernard Vallat in March, it would be "very, very useful to have a vaccine ready to be used in all Europe by the Spring of 2008", the way governments and the EU have responded to this issue seems extraordinarily relaxed. One hopes, at least, that the SAPO licence is about to be restored at Merial in the UK.

January 16 2008 ~ Commissioner Kyprianou tells States to get on with ordering vaccine and that costs will be met. But will they in the UK, or will farmers have to pay?

    The Reuters report makes one wonder if the UK, even now, will even ask for 100% vaccine compensation and 50% costs
      " ....EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou, ....speaking at a one-day conference, said central EU funding would meet the costs of buying the vaccine, likely to be available by the spring, and half the costs of administration.......that funding would be subject to certain ceilings that would be set once the vaccine's final cost was known, Kyprianiou said, adding that between 150 and 200 million doses would probably be needed for an emergency vaccination campaign during 2008.
      European Commission experts have estimated the cost of one vaccine dose at around 0.50 euro (this is currently about 37p). While that price will probably be fixed, administration costs vary widely across the EU's 27 countries, mainly due to differing vets' salaries. .."
    Can the UK claim this compensation for the vaccination campaign? Warmwell has heard that the Fontainebleau Agreement might put a spanner in the works as well as the UK's record on surveillance. In 1984, the Fontainebleau Agreement gave the UK its "abatement",or rebate but it may be that this very rebate means that the UK cannot now claim its vaccine funding. We should very much appreciate informed comment on the issue of who pays for bluetongue vaccine the England - and why.

January 16 2008 ~ "We must not allow this problem to drift."

    Norman Baker, MP, met farmers in Firle (Sussex) yesterday,
      "Blue tongue was a problem the Government should have got to grips with a lot earlier. With that, foot and mouth and TB in cattle, livestock farmers are really up against it and are asking how they can carry on. The Government has a blue tongue restriction between some areas in Sussex, so I have spoken to farmers who can't move their own sheep from Wealden back into Lewes. It's ridiculous. I am collating information and views from local farmers at the moment. We must not allow this problem to drift."
    And a report by the South Downs Joint Committee said that the Sussex countryside is being devastated by the blue tongue outbreak and may never recover. The Argus reports that the Committee, "predicted a shift to arable production, meaning the sight of lambs grazing on the South Downs could become a rarity within years.....Martin Beaton, the committee's South Downs officer, said: "Blue tongue has had a significant impact on the economics of sheep farming, which was already under significant economic pressure. ...Poor sheep prices coinciding with improved arable prices are likely to drive the expansion of arable production."

January 15 2008 ~ The agenda for tomorrow's Brussels meeting is now online

    pdf file here. The introduction will set the "EU context for bluetongue vaccination". Scientific and stakeholders' views on bluetongue vaccination will then be given by speakers who include Declan O'Brien and Klaas Johan Osinga. The afternoon session will focus on experience of bluetongue vaccination in South Africa and in the USA. Only at 3.00 pm will the the issue of "EU harmonised approach for bluetongue vaccination" be introduced (by Alberto Laddomada, the very commissioner who seemed to me in October to be so opposed to any revision of the rules concerning vaccination against FMD). 20 minutes of general discussion will then be allowed - and between 4 and 5 pm the conference will hear from each Member State's CVO and from "stakeholders". We will post as soon as possible any further information after the meeting.

January 12/13 ~"The whole integrity of regulations ... very much in the melting pot..".

    The frustrations are summed up in comments by livestock auctioneers, McCartneys in :".... the Bluetongue saga ... Europe says don't draw lines on a map, get a vaccine as soon as you can. This is the only thing that will work, and so DEFRA as soon as Bluetongue comes in, draws lines on a map and says this is what the Europeans want us to do.
    Who are you to believe? Do you believe government at all now? The regulations have become so devoid from what is reality on the ground as to become laughable. It is a pity that Gilbert and Sullivan are not alive because it would have made a marvellous story for a comic opera...."

January 12/13 ~ "Top priority is getting vaccination off the ground - and later they can do their research till the cows come home..."

    Sabine Zentis, who is going to the Brussels meeting on Wednesday, nevertheless found time to write this email to warmwell about one aspect of research she feels is important to pursue once vaccination is underway ... ".All of us are still puzzled...It was established as a fact that
      a) the vector is not active below 12 C
      b) virus replication does not occur below 15 C
    a) I am rather sure that these findings only relate to C. Imicola as our midges involved (and suspected) in transmission of BT are active at much lower temperatures. The question remains why they bite at low temperatures - because the female midge only needs a blood meal for egg laying. But whether the midges actually lay eggs during the colder time of the year must be researched. ..... I have learned from Intervet that they tried to set up a field trial on the use of Butox pour on some place in Spain. They had to bring different species of midges to this place and interestingly the midges refused to cooperate. They didn't attack the animals, not even the ones that hadn't been treated...." Read in full.

January 12/13 2008 ~ "are they waiting for a barn door clinical case before they go out to test?"

    Dr Ruth Watkins' email today suggests ways of making things for farmers a little more equitable
      "If DEFRA will refuse to be responsible for a compulsory blanket vaccination campaign with refunding at least partially from the EU.....DEFRA should pay for the tests on animals to be moved out of the restriction zone this winter, and other tests ruled necessary for movement (ie to autumn sales within the UK).
      Also, as in France, when bluetongue is confirmed on a farm, the farmer should not have to pay the NFSCO for removal of any fallen stock during the 2008 bluetongue season - (it is worthless once dead and it adds insult to injury to pay for removal as well - especially for sheep farmers) - but on condition that the farmer vaccinate all his stock immediately upon diagnosis. .."
    A question for written answer she would like asked by one of the stakeholders at the next meeting concerns details of their results of "surveillance in the Surveillance Zone- both with regard to the testing of animals and of captured midges for BTV-8. A corollary to that is how many entire herd or flock tests have they done in the protection zone and what are the results (you will need dates of the testing)..." Read in full

January 11 2008 ~ Intervet's Bluetongue vaccine is ready.

    From an article in Agrarisch Dagblad (in Dutch) "Pharmaceutical company Intervet announced that the first vaccines against BTV-8 are ready. Sales Director Paul van Aarle says: “We have developed a safe and effective vaccine. We are now in the process to optimize production. For instance the company has to establish how many doses can be made from the inactivated virus. By March Intervet expects to know more about production capacity. “We are aiming to have the vaccine ready for use in May.” The vaccine was developed one and a half year quicker than normal.... "Sheep are worst affected which makes their vaccination a priority. We also have developed a safe and effective vaccine for cattle and a vaccine for goats is currently in the testing stage."

January 11 2008 ~ A note of the Bluetongue Stakeholder Meeting, 18 December 2007 has now been published on the DEFRA website

    It helpfully names all the attendees and their organisations, including those who were in telephone contact during the meeting. The pdf file can be seen here. The vaccination working group was at that time in December preparing the detailed vaccination plan which needs to be submitted to the European Commission by "the end of January". The major question seemed to be the issue of whether vaccination could be compulsory or not. Detail in the pdf file. Attendees were told that the EU Commission would not be purchasing a community Bluetongue vaccine bank but there seems to have been little mention of the EU offer (see below) of funding and the conditions attached to that offer. It will be interesting to discover what further emerges at the meeting in Brussels on January 16th (next Wednesday)

January 11 2008 ~ Scotland wants compulsory post-movement testing of susceptible animals

    Herald "NFU Scotland, together with the National Sheep Association's Scottish region and the Scottish Beef Cattle Association, have written to the Scottish Government calling for compulsory testing of susceptible animals arriving in Scotland from the bluetongue (BT) zones in England. Whilst a post-movement test is a requirement for any animals imported into Scotland from BT zones in continental Europe, no such requirement exists for animals coming from bluetongue zones within the UK..."

January 10 2008 ~ DEFRA advises worried farmers to get hold of "disused refrigerated vehicle body or a shipping container "

    No further mention of sticky nets in this piece of "protect and survive" advice from DEFRA entitled Guidance on protection from vector attack
      "Openings for light and ventilation must be provided including fan ventilation if necessary (sic) ... order to minimise traffic through the entrance, piped drinking water should be provided and enough feed and bedding should be stored within the vector proof unit to supply the animals through the complete protection from vector attack period. If possible, storage for manure should also be provided within the facility... it is advised that you use a double door entry system. ..."
    One tired and despairing farmer writes,
      " So Defra are now advising livestock farmers to procure 'obsolete refrigerated shipping containers' out which to fashion 'air lock vector proof housing'... They shouldn't be in charge of a stuffed parrot...."
    It is increasingly difficult not to agree.

January 8 2008 ~ "These meetings give everyone the opportunity to learn more about the problem and the existing movement restrictions."

    Farmers Weekly tells of meetings in the South West next Wednesday, organised by NSA, NBA, LAA and the NFU and supported by Farmers Weekly and Intervet. "Two meetings will be staged next week, one at Exeter Livestock Market at 1pm on 16 January and another at the new Sedgemoor Livestock Market at 7pm on the same day." Anyone wishing to attend either meeting should notify NSA in advance by telephoning 01684 892 661.

January 7/8 2008 ~ Imported animals ~ a small paragraph on page 22 of the UK Bluetongue Control Strategy of August 2007

    Unfortunately, we now discover the existence of a small paragraph in UK Bluetongue Control Strategy of August 2007 (page 22) that says
      "Compensation would not be payable in the following circumstances: • Imported infected animals slaughtered on a discretionary basis (under Import Regulations) as a disease risk, and the remaining herd monitored."
    One outraged emailer feels that the Worcestershire farmer concerned "should sue the import company for compensation as the animals certainly did not meet the criteria laid down in the health certificates " but the DEFRA spokeswoman quoted below suggested that compensation was not payable for Bluetongue at all. Undeniably however, the Statutory Instrument, approved after confirmation of the UK outbreak, certainly does allow for compensation where slaughter is demanded by the authorities. In the case of Bluetongue, of course, this is useless anyway. Suggesting that ruminants should be killed "to prevent midges becoming infected" really is akin to locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. The UK postponed the inevitable declaration of disease (see below) until September 28 but infected midges were shown to have been circulating since August 4th. In late September, all the earliest Bluetongue-positive cases in Suffolk were killed. (DEFRA's most Canute-like attempts to impose similar "robust" controls on the midges themselves were soon - sticky nets notwithstanding - also seen to be doomed to failure.)

January 7/8 2008 ~ "a reservoir of infected blood even if all the diseased farm animals were killed off...."

    Matters of compensation, vaccination policy, import regulations and movement restrictions are still horribly unclear to many farmers. Compulsory slaughter can do no good in controlling Bluetongue and widespread vaccination is accepted by all reasonable parties as our only viable hope. Matthew Baylis, professor of epidemiology at Liverpool University, recently quoted in the Economist, said,
      " ... Britain's population of wild deer - bigger now than it has been for hundreds of years - would provide a reservoir of infected blood even if all the diseased farm animals were killed off...."
    However, the other reason for compensation - apart from compulsory purchase - is that if the authorities want people to report disease and co-operate with policy, there needs to be far more carrot than stick. At present, just at the time when farmers need reassurance and clarification, what there mainly is, is ignorance.

January 7 2008 ~ BTv infected animals imported from the Netherlands to Worcestershire - culled but no compensation payable?

    The Worcester News reported that the owner of the 20 imported cows, culled at the demand of DEFRA, (see below) was not to be compensated. The DEFRA spokeswoman is quoted:
      "The farmer did the right thing but sadly for him there is no compensation for animals that have bluetongue."
    "Sadly there is no compensation"? It was only in October that a Statutory Instrument for both England and Wales was approved stating clearly:
      "....compensation payable by the Secretary of State in respect of the animal shall be its market value immediately before it was slaughtered had it not been affected or suspected of being affected with, or had it not been exposed to the infection of, bluetongue."
    One wonders how DEFRA can interpret this to mean that the Worcestershire farmer must now face unaided the losses following the imposed slaughter of his 20 cows. The importation was legal and the Dutch furnished certification. That the farmer alone should shoulder the financial loss seems to be an arbitrary decision on the part of officialdom backed neither by fairness nor legislation. We can find no legal document that says imported animals are ineligible for compensation. There seems to be nothing on this point in the November Bluetongue Order 2007. Individual farmers cannot possibly afford to fight this sort of injustice in the courts.
    Any informed comment on this issue would be extremely welcome. UPDATE See small small paragraph in the August Bluetongue Order

January 7 2008 ~ The EU has yet to decide what costs are eligible.

    Efforts have kindly been made to try to explain to us that the UK only gets back only about 1/3rd of additional EU expenditure (a side-effect of the Fontainebleu Agreement) and could therefore get only about 16.5% of funding available for any "costs" involved on vaccination. The EU has yet to decide what costs are eligible. They have made it clear that the funding is for "approved programmes" only. "Surveillance" would have to go further than the basic surveillance requirements in the EU directive - and it seems likely that funding would be limited to lab/testing costs. We are told that funding would probably also exclude farmers’ own costs.
    It seems that not one single Member State has yet submitted a plan for vaccination for BTV8. The deadline is the end of January but perhaps all are waiting to see what decisions are reached in Brussels at January 16th's meeting.. The Commission as not yet decided what constitutes a eligible vaccination plan and whether or not it must be compulsory. As James Irvine says in his article, "What a muddle".

January 7 2008 ~ "What has happened to the concept of creating an effective barrier to the spread of the virus by using timely vaccination?" asks Dr Irvine

    An article on the Land Care website expresses concern that there may be some "ill-conceived EC rules as to what the EC will allow to be vaccinated..
      "...What Scotland desperately now needs is its own laboratory facilities, licenced to carry out Bluetongue and other viral diagnostic work using modern technology that does not require the highest level of biosecurity. RT-PCR technology that is mobile and can be taken to the farm gate from any of the 11 established veterinary laboratories in Scotland is what is needed. And it cannot come soon enough.."
    Amazement is being expressed widely in all parts of the UK that Defra is not moving quicker on sorting out a strategy. The funding situation remains unclear even to the inner circle of core stakeholders.

January 4 2008 ~ The country "sliced up" by restrictions

    The Farmers Guardian writers today are pessimistic here about the long term effects of Bluetongue. " ...The restrictions accompanying it have sliced the nation up as far as animal movements are concerned and will be there for the long run. The industry may never be the same again."
    And in a further article, they quote Dr Ruth Watkins
      "In 2008 we will see the virus spread much wider and many more animals will become infected. The disease is very difficult to stop spreading. It doesn’t make every animal keel over and symptoms can be difficult to spot. We are unlikely to notice any sick animals in May or June, but the midges will be back biting animals by then.
      It will take a few weeks for the virus to replicate in the midges and then in the animals so by July we can expect to see it spreading again.”

January 4th 2008 ~ for a vaccination programme to be successful every ruminant will need to be vaccinated....we should have started vaccination by now

    On the subject of vaccination, Dr Watkins is quoted in the Farmers Guardian again today: “They are talking about a vaccine being available by May or June. The problem is that in order for a vaccination programme to be successful every ruminant will need to be vaccinated.
    Unless this happens, the virus will keep spreading. The vaccine will be administered in two doses so it will be three weeks from vaccination by the time we see resistance to the virus.
    I think that 2008 will still see the virus spread to the rest of the country, because we should have started vaccination by now if we were going to stop it."

January 3 2008 ~ Bluetongue Pre-movement testing 2008: Sample submission forms

    Pre-movement testing samples for PCR testing must - apparently - be sent to IAH Pirbright and samples for antibody ELISA testing must be sent to VLA (Weybridge). This monopoly strikes many as rather absurd when the private sector could be carrying out such testing competitively. Many sheep farmers, anxious to move stock, are going to find the prices charged by the IAH and VLA very high - with the PCR at £15 per sample tested and ELISA test at £2.95 per sample tested. Prices apparently include the cost of up to two re-tests, if required, "as defined in the approved testing protocol" but the guidance to vets where this information first appeared now links to an error message. The appropriate DEFRA page was updated yesterday but the link is dead . The correct page can be found here.
    A submission form for PCR tests can be obtained from Pirbright here and for Elisa tests from the VLA here. (Pdf forms open in new windows)

January 3 2008 ~ More demands for ban on imports from Bluetongue areas of Europe

    Following the discovery of the infected cow in Dumfries and Galloway (Kirkcudbright), the Herald today quotes Richard Lochhead who is calling for an urgent review of EU export controls "in order to prevent the virus spreading" He says, " It continues to remain vital that livestock keepers consider carefully where they source their stock from."

January 1 2008 ~ Declaration of Bluetongue Zones from Dec 31

    The new pdf file gives the areas, towns and counties placed in both zones and, in its inimitable language, tells us that "the Restricted Zone is divided into a protection zone comprising the area described in Annex 1 of the Schedule and delimited in blue on the map in Annex 3 of the Schedule ; and a surveillance zone comprising the area described in Part A and delimited in black on the map in Annex 3 of the Schedule and the areas described in Part B of Annex 2 of the Schedule."
    As has been pointed out before, it seems rather illogical that part of the South Coast of England is not included in the restriction zone when it is within 150 km of France (the map shows cases at Dec 27th) in view of the nearness of BTV cases in Northern France.

January 1 2008 ~ The costs of tests to move from the Surveillance Zone

    We understand that IAH Pirbright is offering PCR tests for £15 each and Weybridge is offering the ELISA test for £3 . As in the dark days of 2001, these government funded labs are the only labs to be licensed to do these tests even though there seems no valid reasons at all why the private sector could not be included. If the private labs were included, prices would be far more competitive and allow the far less well-off sheep farmers to afford the pre-movement tests. Such a situation seems much more restrictive even than in human medicine.
    As far as vaccination itself is concerned, while DEFRA controls the vaccine bank, farmers and owners will have no say in the cost of the vaccine. Again, there will be no competition for a low price from the 7 manufacturers that will be coming on line next year because permission for use must be sought from DEFRA. Although the farmers and owners will be paying the piper, the tune will be called - yet again - by the government. This seems patently unfair. It is to be hoped that Parliamentary Questions will be asked and the answers critically examined and followed up.

December 29 2007 ~ "the movement regulations are not clear.."

    "LTO Netherlands recognizes that there are different points of view over cattle movements from Bluetongue areas..." The Agrarisch Dagblad article quotes Klaas Johan Osinga from LTO North:
      "We are dealing here mainly with movements from Protection Zones to Free Zones. Not just England but also to Italy and Spain (who) had similar situations. This happened because the movement regulations are not clear. For instance, the UK requires that cattle are quarantined for 60 days before they can move to Bluetongue free areas. Other countries require insecticide treatment. "
    The LTO (Dutch Organisation for Agriculture and Horticulture) is asking for clear regulations from the OIE to harmonise rules across Europe.

December 29 2007 ~ "The NFU’s position on this would let down not just the exporters but also the buyers"

    As for the NFU's call for a ban, the same article quotes Johan van den Berg, the Director of Exporters Veepro. He points out that there is a demand for breeding stock in England and NFU’s position on this would let down not just the exporters but also the buyers. He says, "The call for a ban on imports is unrealistic. There are European rules and everybody needs to stick to them."

December 29 2007 ~ " EU countries depend on each other.. I’m completely underwhelmed by all this hypocrisy..."

    It is to be hoped that a situation that may be affecting relations between the UK and Holland can be swiftly resolved. We have already heard from one contact in the sheep industry who, having read about the NFU's stance, says in exasperation,
      "Which organisation is so dead against vaccination because IT WILL STOP TRADE for their powerful members?
      Holland is a trading nation and Holland buys 1000s of calves from this country. In the four days between the first and the second FMD outbreak this year there were 8000 calves exported from the UK (all to be tested yet again at great cost and effort for potential FMD). EU countries depend on each other and animal diseases are increasingly a Pan European problem. I’m completely underwhelmed by all this hypocrisy..."
    It is interesting that there is no news yet about any firm vaccine order from Holland. We should appreciate any information on this.
    The EU vaccine requirements are that member states have to provide an audit trail. It is difficult escape the conclusion that the reason why the UK is to "go it alone" is because it is cheaper for DEFRA to fund the vaccine (and then get livestock keepers to pay). As we say below, stakeholders are waiting for some explanation from DEFRA about what is to happen and why.

December 28 2007 ~ The Dutch say that the 20 Worcester heifers were correctly certified

    A new article has appeared on saying the animals were from Vion Lifestock. They too are stating that the animals were certified according to the existing EU regulations and that they have done nothing wrong. Agrarisch Dagblad, as the newspaper is called, opened today's edition with the comments from Defra and the comments from the Dutch authorities. The case is attracting a lot of attention in Holland at the moment.
    UPDATE Translation of the latest article can be read here

December 28 2007 ~ Scotland's first case of bluetongue virus has been found in a cow imported from Germany.

    The BBC reports
      "...One of 35 cattle imported from a farm in Bremen tested positive for the virus following routine post-import testing undertaken by the Animal Health Agency. . Movement restrictions have been imposed on the farm near Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway. The infected animal will be culled to minimise the risk of disease spreading. ..."
    This case will inevitably increase anxiety among livestock farmers everywhere. At present, of course, there is no question of a free for all in the distribution of vaccine when it finally arrives. At present, EU rules state that vaccine is to be restricted to the Protection Zone. As for the UK strategy, all concerned are having to wait for someone in DEFRA to make a public statement to clarify the situation.

December 28 2007 ~ How did the Worcester bluetongue cows end up in the Surveillance Zone?

    We understand that the 20 dutch heifers (below) were destined for a holding in the protection zone but were sent "accidentially" to a holding in the surveillance zone. According to the Dutch authorities the certification was appropriate for movement between protection zones - so there must have been a "misunderstanding" of some sort. Whether this happened in the Netherlands or the UK is under investigation. See the story (in Dutch) at According to a spokesman of the Dutch ministry of agriculture (our somewhat free translation): "The animals had been certified for transport to the bluetongue Protection zone in Great Britain. Owing to a misunderstanding, the animals however ended up in the Surveillance Zone"

December 28 2007 ~ So many unanswered questions about the vaccination strategy

    The vaccine has at last been ordered (see below) but no one seems to know how the 22.5 million doses are going to be distributed and whether vaccination is going to be voluntary or compulsory. Farmers are being told they must buy the vaccine from a UK vaccine bank (in spite of the EU offer, apparently not applicable to the UK, that the first year's costs will be covered in Member States whose policy is acceptable)
    Demand for the vaccine is likely to outstrip supply. Peter Morris, (NSA) is quoted in the Farmers Guardian today. He says, "... that although vaccine will not initially be available to everyone, it is essential that all farmers vaccinate their animals as soon as possible to stop the spread of the virus.
      “....Despite the cost – which we will do our utmost to keep as low as possible through what must be a very transparent pricing process – NSA believes that it makes business sense for all sheep keepers to vaccinate their animals when they have the opportunity to do so.”
    See Farmers Guardian.

December 28 2007 ~ anxious farmer is denied a Defra derogation to ease his welfare and economic concerns.

    The Farmers Guardian describes how the farmer, Robert Gray, has "written to Defra to ask for a derogation to move his cattle but Defra have so far failed to respond, despite their two week response promise having elapsed." He wants to move the cows from their muddy conditions just one and a half miles back to the home farm in Great Bookham, Surrey. But the cows are in the Protection Zone and his farm is in the Surveillance Zone. It is precisely for such situations as this that derogations exist.

December 27 2007 ~ Blood test costs are inhibiting movement

    The value of sheep has plummeted, but the cost of getting them 'pre-movement' tested according to the DEFRA rules is a real problem for farmers in Wales who need to return stranded sheep over the border in the English Bluetongue zones (See also )
    Dr Ruth Watkins recently expressed puzzlement at the apparent illogicality of a VFP and expensive pre-movement tests: "...If DEFRA have decided that we are essentially in a period when no further transmission is taking place because their surveillance within the protection zone and within the surveillance zone shows no transmission, and there have been no new reports of clinical cases, so that they feel it is safe to forego the declaration of new control and surveillance zones around the Middlesborough cow (nor the Worcester ones), then people ought to be free to move animals out of the Surveillance zone into the unrestricted areas without expensive testing..." Read in full

December 27 2007 ~ Temporary authorisation of use given to Intervet's first vaccine against serotype 8 in France

    A french press release (Dec 21) from the French 'Agence de Securite Sanitaire des Aliments' (See tells us that the marketing authorization section of the AFSSA has approved the authorization of Intervet's BOVILIS BTV and has given it a Temporary Use Permit (In France known as an ATU) This means that the vaccine will now be usable in France under official veterinary control. Bovilis BTV is inactivated vaccine of Bluetongue serotype 8 for sheep and cattle.

December 23 2007 ~ ProMed moderator wonders what scientific advice was sought for establishing VFP

    ProMed "It will be interesting to note the scientific background for the decision; it is to be hoped that the advice of Pirbright's IAH (Institute of Animal Health) experts was sought. Pirbright and Onderstepoort laboratories have been world leaders in BTV research and diagnosis for decades. In particular, the study of the transmitting midges, culicoides, has been thoroughly addressed. For IAH's Guide to the British Culicoides, go to"

December 22 2007 ~ Commission Decision of 30th November - but where is the UK?

    " The programmes for the eradication and monitoring of bluetongue submitted by Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia are hereby approved for the period from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2008. ..." The EU pdf file is here. We cannot understand why the UK does not feature in contributions towards the eradication of the mentioned diseases (including Bluetongue and bovine TB) and would welcome any explanation. See also Blog

December 21 ~ DEFRA confirms VFP

    The vector-free period for Bluetongue disease has been declared from Thursday 20 December, "allowing relaxation of certain movement restrictions in relation to the control of Bluetongue". See Defra website and Farmers Guardian

December 21 ~ "We deserve an explanation"

    We understand that Defra has said that if the UK took up the offer of EC funding for vaccination, there would be “other costs” that would probably be greater. "Other costs" - to what does this refer? An emailer writes,
      "We deserve an explanation. Does this refer to traceability, surveillance and accountability, all dependent on a competent government department capable of communicating and handling data?
      If Defra reject the offer and make livestock keepers pay while at the same time allow low levels of vaccination putting all at risk, without true and comprehensive consultation, then Defra must take full financial and moral responsibility for the consequences to all livestock keepers."
    The way DEFRA is reacting to the crisis is irregular to say the least. Its officials are behaving as if wholly unaware of the real feeling in the farming community, and the policy threatens to pose far more risk than it aims to solve.

21 December 2007 ~ "It is understood that following an extensive surveillance programme, Defra will announce the amnesty on restrictions in the coming weeks."

    The Farmers Guardian reports that Defra will announce the amnesty on restrictions in the coming weeks.
      "....The relaxation will allow farmers in the zones to move animals into disease-free areas, both in the UK and the EU, easing the immediate pressure on the livestock industry. With no new cases of the disease in domestic livestock for almost a month, many farmers are now urging Defra to scale back the restrictions and allow farm-to-farm movements....."
    The article repeats that farmers will have to pay for the vaccine and that "With demand likely to outstrip supply, Defra are currently consulting with stakeholders on how a vaccination strategy can be put in place."

21 December 2007 ~ 20 imported cows on premises near Worcester have tested positive for Bluetongue

    The farm is within the current bluetongue surveillance zone. The cows came from within a Protection Zone in the Netherlands. DEFRA's routinely carries out post-import testing on all bluetongue susceptible animals entering the UK. See FWi

21 December 2007 ~ "Defra are currently consulting with stakeholders on how a vaccination strategy can be put in place"

Once again, we are concerned at the use of the word "stakeholders". The "stakeholders" with whom DEFRA are consulting - Defra’s selected “core group”- do not represent small and family farms, smallholders or companion animal keepers.
The Department's recent announcement of voluntary, rather than compulsory, vaccination has not been widely discussed, and a large portion of the livestock, veterinary and scientific sectors would not agree to support it - if they were to be given the chance of being consulted.