Second case of livestock virus confirmed

A second case of the livestock virus bluetongue was diagnosed yesterday at the same Suffolk farm where the UK's first incidence of the disease was discovered last week.

A second case of the livestock virus bluetongue was diagnosed yesterday at the same Suffolk farm where the UK's first incidence of the disease was discovered last week.

The news that farmers had feared was confirmed by Defra last night: a second Highland cow at Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, six miles north of Ipswich, had tested positive for the midge-borne disease and had been culled. It was unclear last night whether lab test results had been completed on the other cattle, goats and sheep at the farm.

Defra chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds announced that a “temporary bluetongue zone” would come into force from 3.30pm today, imposing a series of restrictions on the movement of animals in an area stretching from Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire to the home counties and east midlands.

But Defra said the second case did not amount to an outbreak of the disease - which is rife in northern Europe and has a 70pc mortality rate in sheep - and that surveillance of animals in the temporary zone would help establish whether the virus was circulating.

A department spokeswoman said: “I can confirm a second cow has tested positive for bluetongue and was slaughtered this afternoon on the same farm. The evidence remained insufficient to confirm an outbreak.”

Under the restrictions, farm-to-farm movement of livestock will only be allowed under strict conditions with high levels of biosecurity. But farmers will be able to move pigs in line with the usual pattern of rearing.

Most Read

Farmers' leaders described the bluetongue restrictions as being similar to the rules on livestock movement in force for the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.

Bob Young, Norfolk chairman of the National Farmers' Union, said: “Defra has identified those counties (in the temporary zone) because some of the other counties are still covered by the foot-and-mouth restrictions, which are much more strict. It means that they are not relaxing the FMD controls in these bluetongue areas like they are in the rest of the country.

“They want everyone here to be vigilant and bear with it for a little longer and, hopefully, it will pass and we will get back to normality.”

In a separate development, Defra officials also confirmed yesterday that a seventh herd of cattle in Surrey had tested positive for foot-and-mouth since early August.

Ms Reynolds said the cattle at Klondyke Farm, near Egham, had foot- and-mouth lesions that were up to four weeks old and were not reported by the owner. She said the animals on the farm were probably infected by mechanical transmission, for example by people or vehicles, from the laboratory at Pirbright - the suspected source of the outbreak - or the first two farms infected in August.

But there was some good news for farmers as initial results on animals on a farm near Rogate, West Sussex, tested negative for foot-and-mouth. Defra also relaxed restrictions on the foot-and-mouth movement of livestock in “low- risk” areas of the UK.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “``This will come as a huge relief to livestock farmers who desperately need to move or sell their animals and should at least reduce the danger of this becoming a welfare and economic crisis for many farmers.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter