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Industry bodies agree on BTV winter import code
Scotland’s livestock representative bodies have reviewed the current voluntary ban on the importation of livestock from bluetongue (BTV)-infected areas of continental Europe and have agreed on a winter import code* for producers who feel they must source livestock from these areas when the lower risk period begins next month. The Group has liaised with the Scottish Government on the detail of the Code.
NFU Scotland, the National Beef Association (NBA), Scottish region of the National Sheep Association (NSA), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and the Scottish Beef Cattle Association (SBCA) met in Edinburgh this week and reviewed their position in light of the following developments: an improved disease situation; high compliance with the Scottish compulsory vaccination campaign; a more effective vaccination and certification regime in Europe, and the start of the so-called Transmission Free Period (TFP)**, which runs from November through April.
The group has thanked the whole industry for the almost universal compliance with the voluntary ban. This has helped keep Scotland free of bluetongue disease and now allows options for imports over the winter to be explored. Whilst stressing that the best way to reduce risk is not to import stock from the Continent at all, the group has recognised the pressure the ban has put on individual businesses. The agreed Code provides for a managed introduction of live imports over the lower risk TFP period should farmers feel it is essential to get stock in from the Continent.
The group, together with the Scottish Government, will continue to review policies in light of disease developments.
NFUS Vice President Nigel Miller said:
“The level of support from producers on the ground for the voluntary ban has been fantastic. It has shown a commitment to preserving our animal health status and it is a feather in the industry’s cap. It is that effort, combined with other factors, which means we can now consider guidelines for the import of live animals from Europe over the winter. The best policy is still not to import, but we recognise that to relieve pressure on some businesses opening the Europe route will help. The underlying principle of the industry group is to ensure any imports, if they must happen, are well managed and controlled.
Vice Chairman of the NBA in Scotland is Hamish McBean. He said:
“There were initially real question marks over the robustness of the vaccination and certification scheme in mainland Europe. However, the stock that has been imported into into areas of England from the Continent have shown that this system is now reliable. This level of protection, combined with the fact we’re now entering the Transmission Free Period reduces the risk and has allowed us to review where we are.”
George Milne, Development Officer for the National Sheep Association’s Scottish region said:
“The compulsory vaccination scheme in Scotland has worked, and across the country there is almost total coverage of vaccinated stock. Against that blanket of protection, should there be a problem with an import, it could be isolated quickly and dealt with. This Code represents the next step in industry organisations working together and striking a balance between disease protection and ongoing trade.”
John Bell from the Scottish Beef Cattle Association said:
“We don’t want this to be seen as a green light to mass imports. However, for those who feel it is essential to bring stock in from the Continent, we need them to adhere to this Code to protect themselves and the wider industry. Any introduction of these animals needs to be managed and we think this set of guidelines provides robust protection but is also manageable for individuals wanting to source abroad.”
*The Winter import code for producers needing to source livestock from BT-infected areas of mainland Europe during the Transmission Free Period is as follows:
• Imports of susceptible animals may start from the first day of the TFP but should stop two weeks before the final day of the TFP.
• EU rules do not require animals from a BTV8 zone to be vaccinated to move to Scotland, but veterinary certification of vaccination should be sought. Animals from a zone of any other type, including BTV1, must have been vaccinated and preferably PCR tested.
• All imported animals will be PCR tested on arrival by Animal Health and kept under movement restrictions until proven negative.
• The local DVM must be notified of the movement 24 hours before the animal’s arrival and more notice would be helpful.
Pregnant cattle pose a BTV risk through any calf subsequently born and importers should therefore avoid in-calf animals. However, if they are to be imported, the following guidelines should be followed:
• Any in-calf heifers/cows should be certified as vaccinated by a veterinary surgeon prior to service or AI, this is a legal requirement if they come from a zone for any serotype other than BTV8;
• If pregnant cattle are imported, they should calve before the end of March;
• All calves born of imported cows or heifers should be PCR tested within one week of birth.