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Relaxation of Bluetongue-3 control zones welcomed by NSA, but farmers urged to remain vigilant

20th February 2024

Temporary Control Zones (TCZs) that have limited the movement of livestock to control the spread of bluetongue have now been removed easing difficulties for many sheep and beef farmers in South East England.

The removal of the zones, announced by Defra, came in to force yesterday (Monday 19th February) but certain restrictions do remain to reduce the risk of the spread of the bluetongue-3 (BTV-3) strain.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “Due to a current reduced level of midge activity, some restrictions on movements of live animals from the TCZ have now been lifted. Defra has been operating with the aim of reducing the infection pool when the midge population rises in spring. There does remain a risk from infected pregnant females, due to the fact they can give birth to infected offspring, and from entire males as they can infect females either through natural service or through artificial insemination, so these animals are still restricted from movement but for the majority this relaxation is positive and welcomed.”

As from Monday 19th February any farm in a former TCZ that is as yet untested will be placed under an individual holding restriction requiring a vet attestation that any animal being moved is not pregnant, or entire in the case of males. These animals will require negative BTV-3 tests prior to being moved. Castrated males and non pregnant females will be free to move to live and to slaughter. 

Mr Stocker continues: “Although this update is positive news and will relieve the burden for many, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is keen to encourage farmers across the country to remain vigilant and aware of the risk of bluetongue, especially as the weather warms up into spring.

“Although the current outbreak has been isolated to parts of Kent and Norfolk it is perfectly possible that the disease could be far reaching across the UK as the year progresses. NSA encourages farmers across the country to access the Ruminant Health and Welfare Group and AHDB websites where a suite of useful resources and webinars on this subject can be found. NSA is actively involved in both groups and continues to work with industry to ensure the sheep sector is well informed and prepared coming into spring.”