Results of a UK-wide survey show encouraging signs that more livestockproducers will vaccinate against bluetongue in 2009 than did during2008.

The survey, entitled “Perceptions of Bluetongue Prevention in the UK” looks at the attitudes of both farmers and vets towards bluetongue and its prevention.

The survey also highlights how both groups “recognise that controlling bluetongue is only possible by vaccination” and “appreciate the need to adopt such a protective strategy”.

Farmers and vets understand that controlling Bluetongue is only possible by vaccination, says Merial Encompassing 150 sheep, dairy and beef farmers, together with 40 vets, the research was conducted in November 2008 by independent research specialist dmrkynetec on behalf of Merial Animal Health Ltd.

However, with advice from vets and government to vaccinate often conflicting with actual incidences of bluetongue last year, the report claims that farmers remain confused about whether it is essential to vaccinate and have many unanswered questions.

The survey identified that the key factors which encourage farmers to vaccinate were:

  • local/UK cases of bluetongue;
  • high midge numbers;
  • their vet’s recommendation;
  • hot humid weather;
  • the incidence in Europe; and
  • the need to obtain movement certificates in some areas.

Those factors which discourage them from doing so include:

  • a low incidence of outbreaks;
  • cases being confined to imported animals;
  • their geographical location; and
  • concerns regarding abortions and cost.

Of those surveyed, 71% of dairy farmers, 65% of beef farmers and 65% of sheep farmers followed their vet’s advice and vaccinated in 2008. Regarding their plans to vaccinate against bluetongue in 2009, many farmers find it difficult to assess the risks posed by the disease. However, 70% of those with sheep and dairy cows intend to do so, although the figure for beef farmers is just 58%.

Brian Rice, veterinary advisor for Merial, said: “Farmers need to know why they should vaccinate against bluetongue, the risks if they don’t, the high level of safety offered by BTV vaccines and the threat from the different serotypes.

“The risks from bluetongue will be as high as ever in 2009. Mainland Europe remains seriously affected, the virus continues to spread and routine testing has confirmed its presence in imported cattle and sheep. Bluetongue is here to stay and will continue to threaten livestock in the UK.”

For further details, see next week’s Veterinary Times

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