Attempt To Infect A Cattle Herd With Brucellosis

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Another attempt has been made to deliberately infect a herd of cattle in Armagh with brucellosis.
calendar icon 7 March 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

The Minister expressed her revulsion at the finding of part of a calf carcase in silage being used to feed a group of heifers. DARD Vets and the PSNI have launched an investigation on the farm. Because brucellosis is classified as an agent that could potentially be used as a biological weapon, the incident is treated very seriously by the PSNI.

The Minister said: “I am appalled to hear that part of a calf has been placed in contact with a group of heifers. If the leg came from a brucellosis infected calf there is a real risk that cattle eating the silage will also now have brucellosis.”

The calf carcase has been submitted to the AFBI laboratory for DNA testing. The cattle which may have come into contact with the carcase, will also be tested for brucellosis.

The Minister continued: “There is no suggestion that the farmer who reported this incident is in any way implicated. It was the farmer’s prompt action that led to the discovery of the risk and the immediate investigation by my veterinary staff and the PSNI.

“There have been several incidents in Armagh in the last year that have led to local hot-spots of disease. This has cost the taxpayer and farmers millions of pounds. Any malicious attempt to spread disease is an attack on the whole of the farming community.”

The Minister added: “I have asked my officials to pursue this investigation as vigorously as possible. I have also asked that they review the appropriateness of the brucellosis control measures in the area, that is, cattle testing, herd and area restrictions and the removal of cattle for slaughter.

“I am determined to leave no stone unturned in our campaign to eradicate brucellosis in the north. I am also pressing for changes to brucellosis compensation so that we strike the correct balance between appropriate compensation which does not encourage fraud by unscrupulous individuals. Herds will not be automatically depopulated and compensated if infection is found.”

Commenting on the risk of Brucellosis to local farms, the Minister: “Farmers are expected to maintain high levels of disease preventative bio-security on their farms at all times. It is only through co-operation and good practice that we can continue to make steady progress to drive down the number of Brucellosis incidents in the north.

“Eradication of brucellosis will bring enormous benefits to the whole cattle industry. We are seeing very positive benefits from the actions and initiatives that we have put in place. The level of brucellosis has reduced by two-thirds in the last two years and my Department are pressing hard to achieve eradication. So it is particularly appalling that we are again dealing with a despicable attempt to deliberately infect cattle with brucellosis.”

The Minister concluded with the warning: “This may not be an isolated incident. I would ask all farmers to be extremely vigilant and be on the lookout for similar materials being placed in proximity to their own cattle and report any suspicious activities. All abortions should also be reported to the local Divisional Veterinary Office.”

Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) President John Thompson said; “I am totally disgusted by this news. For someone to do this shows a complete lack of respect for the decent, honest and hardworking farmers in Northern Ireland. It is the perfect example of where the actions of a tiny minority can threaten the efforts of the entire industry.

“Northern Ireland has been working towards achieving Brucellosis Free Status and we have made good progress towards this, with herd incidence figures in Northern Ireland extremely low in the past two years. If it turns out that the calf leg is infected with Brucellosis, this has the potential to set the industry back years. The disease is extremely costly to farmers and the eradiation of the disease would bring great benefits to the whole industry.

“The UFU is fully supportive of DARD’s efforts to find the perpetrators of this despicable act and I would call on anyone with information about this incidence to contact the authorities immediately. I would also ask all farmers to be extremely vigilant at this time and to not only report all abortions to their Divisional Veterinary Office as soon as possible but to also be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. It is of paramount importance that we stop those who seek to deliberately jeopardise the success of this key Northern Irish industry.”

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