Bluetongue: Temporary control zone advice for farmers
17th November 2023
After the first case of the new emerging bluetongue strain (BTV-3) was confirmed in England, a temporary control zone (TCZ) has been implemented. The Ruminant Health & Welfare group has put together some guidance.
A single cow tested positive for bluetongue serotype 3 at a premises near Canterbury, Kent on 11th November.
A 10km TCZ has been put in place surrounding the farm while the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) undertakes further investigations.
For farm holdings within the TCZ, animal movements will not be licensed within or out of the zone, until Defra has a better assessment of the disease situation.
However, specific licences can be applied for if movements deemed as urgent due to a genuine welfare need, this is defined as where animal welfare is, or is likely to be, significantly compromised.
If farmers within the TCZ feel they are in this situation, they must apply to APHA for a specific licence to move animals to a holding within the TCZ.
To apply, you must contact the APHA outbreak licencing team: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Movements to the abattoir
Within the TCZ there is an abattoir.
Currently, farmers outside the TCZ are permitted to apply of a licence to take animals to the abattoir within the TCZ. Again, to apply, you must contact the APHA outbreak licencing team: email@example.com.
Testing within the temporary control zone
Farmers within the TCZ need to prepare to be contacted by APHA who will be carrying out surveillance testing on-farm.
Holdings nearest the confirmed case will be prioritised.
To prepare for testing, APHA is asking farmers to have their documentation and records up to date and accessible this includes movement records and medicine use records. It may help to have paper copies of these to hand.
An evolving situation
Dr Joseph Henry, vet, chair of the Ruminant Health & Welfare bluetongue working group and president of the Sheep Veterinary Society, asks farmers within the temporary control zone to continue to comply with the legislation and guidance and thanks them for their understanding.
“This new emerging strain has been spreading rapidly in Europe in recent months, and with no current vaccine for this BTV-3 strain, we are pleading with farmers to remain vigilant.
“Our advice and recommendations remain centred around supporting affected farmers as quickly as possible, with the main focus on surveillance.
“Farmers need to beware when buying or moving animals in, take action to report any suspicious clinical signs and prioritise biosecurity, and always, remain vigilant.
“Surveillance and close monitoring of livestock is key.
“The Ruminant Health & Welfare (RH&W) website is the central point of all up-to-date information and will be updated daily, so please visit the website frequently for the latest information.”
BTV-3 is a viral disease transmitted by biting midges, which affects all ruminants (e.g. sheep, cattle, goats and deer) and camelids (e.g. llamas and alpacas).
Applying for movement licences
For farmers applying for movement licences, Dr Henry states that all applications are reviewed and assessed on an individual basis.
He advises that to avoid delays, ensure all information requested is included in applications.
“Depending on the nature of the application and the number of applications, you may not have a response for five days. It’s recommended that if you wish to move animals, you should apply promptly as soon as it is indicated that a licence is or likely to become available.”
In the UK, bluetongue, including BTV-3, is a notifiable disease, so anyone suspecting the disease must take action and report it to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
Further information on clinical signs and resources can be found here: https://ruminanthw.org.uk/bluetongue-virus/