NFU Livestock board vice chair writes to Farmers Weekly on Bluetongue

13 February 2024

David Barton

David Barton

NFU Livestock Board chair

A photo of David Barton speaking at NFU Conference 2023.

NFU Livestock Board vice chair David Barton has written to Farmers Weekly, reflecting on a recent trip to the Netherlands where he experienced the first hand impact of BTV-3 (Bluetongue) on the livestock industry across the country.

He also urges for the swift development of a BTV vaccine as an optimal solution to eliminate the further spread of the virus.

Read the letter below:

To the editor,

Last week I visited a family sheep farm in Nieuwkoop, western Netherlands. It was a cold but surprisingly blue sky day and the farm looked like many other northern European farms producing food for the continent. Apart from it wasn’t. In autumn 2023, the young farming couple at the helm of operations noticed initial signs of the BTV-3 (Bluetongue) virus. Within just a few weeks the farm lost around 65 sheep from the flock.

The virus devastated the farm as there is currently no compensation available in the Netherlands for businesses impacted by BTV-3. And the emotional toll on the young farming family of losing that many animals has been unquantifiable. 

My visit was part of an NFU delegation, including representatives from NFU Cymru and UFU, that went to learn about the impact of BTV-3 across Europe, how we can try to limit the spread during the warmer months in the UK and the vital need for a vaccine.

It is thought that 5% of the national sheep flock has been lost in the Netherlands because of the virus, and it is also known to be present in Germany and Belgium. And it’s not only sheep BTV-3 effects. We also visited a dairy farm on the trip which had been infected by the virus. Although there was only one cow fatality, the other infected animals experienced a notable drop in milk yields, alongside symptoms of fevers and nasal discharge.

With the virus in many of our neighbouring European countries and now in some areas of England, it is essential we work collaboratively towards a resilient industry. Having seen the financial and harrowing emotional impact it can have, I cannot urge enough the importance of development of a vaccine as it is the only option for effectively eliminating the virus. As the industry braces itself for warmer weather it is essential that government and pharmaceutical companies recognise the need for a BTV-3 vaccine.  

David Barton

NFU Livestock Board vice chair

Ask us a question about this page

Once you have submitted your query someone from NFU CallFirst will contact you. If needed, your query will then be passed to the appropriate NFU policy team.

You have 0 characters remaining.

By completing the form with your details on this page, you are agreeing to have this information sent to the NFU for the purposes of contacting you regarding your enquiry. Please take time to read the NFU’s Privacy Policy if you require further information.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.