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Bluetongue vaccination checks
Random blood testing will be carried out at markets and farms to assess compliance with rules to vaccinate livestock against bluetongue disease.
Samples will be taken from cattle and sheep throughout September, where possible during routine visits to farms and markets.
Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, urged Scotland's farmers 'not to drop their guard'. He said:
"The Scottish Government, industry organisations and individual livestock keepers have worked long and hard to keep this disease out of Scotland.
"Our compulsory vaccination programme was unique to the UK, illustrating the dedication of this industry to maintaining high standards of animal health and welfare.
"Despite the apparent lack of circulating disease, bluetongue remains a very serious threat to the livestock sector and I urge everyone to remain vigilant."
Simon Hall, Chief Veterinary Officer for Scotland, said:
"It is crucial when we are now in the highest risk period that farmers remain vigilant against this disease which can lay dormant in apparently healthy animals without any visible symptoms.
"As the midges have been active for several months, their opportunity to transfer infection from a host animal to non vaccinated beast is increasingly high.
"Bluetongue is a particularly virulent disease which can cause high mortality in sheep, severe loss of condition and infertility. A farmer's livelihood can very easily be seriously damaged."
Livestock keepers are urged to:
- Report any suspicion of bluetongue to their local Animal Health Office
- Continue to source animals responsibly
- Vaccinate cattle and sheep as they reach the eligible age
The compulsory vaccination programme, compliance with which has been very high, will be suspended on October 25 as we move into the vector free period. After this date keepers may continue to vaccinate their stock on a voluntary basis.
Surveillance will be carried out in November to provide a clearer picture of the disease situation. This will inform discussions between the Scottish Government and stakeholders with the aim of agreeing the vaccination arrangements for 2010 by the end of 2009. If a further compulsory campaign is required in 2010, full vaccination of stock will again be required by the end of April 2010, in the same way as it was in 2009.
A compulsory vaccination campaign is currently in place in Scotland for cattle and sheep. Keepers must ensure full vaccination of their animals by six months of age, or before moving from their premises at over three months of age.
Random testing will be carried out by staff from the Government's five Animal Health Area offices in Ayr, Galashiels, Inverness, Inverurie and Perth.
Farmers should seek advice on bluetongue vaccination from their vet or local Animal Health Office.