Page last updated at 10:52 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 11:52 UK

Campaign promotes bluetongue jabs

Sheep with symptoms of bluetongue disease (pic: Institute for Animal Health)
The NFU wants to see a 100% uptake on the bluetongue vaccine

Tens of thousands of postcards urging livestock keepers in the bluetongue protection zone to vaccinate cattle are being distributed.

NFU South East is sending out 30,000 postcards and thousands of posters reminding people that the BTV8 vaccine is available in May.

Howard Bates, Kent sheep farmer and NFU spokesman, said the farming union wanted to see a 100% uptake.

Surrey's Institute for Animal Health said farmers must protect livestock.

Dr Chris Oura, an expert on bluetongue based at the Institute, said: "Vaccination against bluetongue is a 'no-brainer'.

"Farmers must protect their livestock from this devastating disease."

'Major threat'

The awareness campaign is targeting livestock markets, agricultural feed merchants, veterinary practices, breed societies, agricultural shows and farms.

It is being funded by the South East England Development Agency.

Last month, Kent NFU chairman Kevin Attwood warned that the bluetongue virus posed a major threat to sheep and cattle in its second season.

He said the virus had the potential to "devastate" the sheep sector and "cause severe impacts on cattle enterprises".

Researchers who studied midges' lifecycles to predict when farms are at risk have said animals in Kent will be the first to be at risk from 21 April.

Cases of bluetongue have already been reported this year in West Sussex, at a farm in Haywards Heath.

And last week, a new case in Surrey brought the total number of cases to 125 across England, 59 of which were identified this year.


SEE ALSO
New bluetongue case expands zone
03 Apr 08 |  England
Bluetongue risk 'starts in April'
22 Feb 08 |  Science/Nature

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