The bluetongue vaccination programme begun yesterday morning with animals on Bixley Farm in Norfolk. They are the first in the country to receive the vaccine ordered by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) from Intervet last year.

The disease is spread by midges and emerged in Britain last September. Farm manager at Bixley Farms, Timm Cane, said: ‘Bluetongue is a horrific disease and it’s our duty to ensure that as many sheep and cattle in the protection zone as possible are vaccinated to help prevent the disease from spreading.’

Intervet spent 20 months taking the vaccine from research and development into full-scale production, a process which can take five to 10 years. A million doses are available in 20-dose bottles for affected farmers with a further batch of two million doses expected in the next few days.

The NFU (National Farmer’s Union) welcomed the news, issuing a statement through the Joint Action against Bluetongue (JAB) group. ‘This should put livestock keepers in a very good position to protect their livestock before midge activity increases as the weather gets warmer,’

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, said: ‘The success of our control and vaccination strategy will ultimately depend on the industry itself, and I strongly support the industry-led campaign to promote vaccination. The message to animal keepers is clear: “Don’t hesitate, vaccinate”‘.

The bluetongue vaccination programme got underway yesterday on a Norfolk farm.

To comment on this article, use the comment box below, or email us at clonews@ipcmedia.com. Read more about the countryside.