As you may be aware the Scottish Government has decided to make Blue Tongue vaccination compulsory for cattle and sheep. The window in which you have to vaccinate is between 3rd November 2008 and 30th April 2009, however supply of the vaccine will not be permitted until the 3rd November 2008 as that is when Scotland will be declared a Blue Tongue Protection Zone. Once Scotland is a Protection Zone free movement will be permitted of blue-tongue suceptable species across Great Britain.

We can only order Blue Tongue vaccine when the attached sheet has been completed in full by you and returned to me, I need to send this off to the Government when I have supplied you with vaccine so they can monitor uptake of the compulsory vaccination.

Animal keepers will be allowed to administer the vaccine if they are to stay within the Protection Zone, if the animals are to be moved out of the Protection Zone and into a Blue Tongue Free Zone there a several conditions which must be met one of which is that a vet must administer the vaccine. If you plan on exporting to a Free Zone please contact me for a more complete explanation.

It is compulsory to vaccinate all cattle and sheep EXCEPT animals which are due to be slaughtered before the 21st May 2009 (this equals the end of the window – 30th April – plus the 21 days it takes for a vaccinated animal to become immune.) In addition animals that are going straight to slaughter, before they are 6 months old, from the holding they were born on do not need to be vaccinated.

Animals which are too young to be vaccinated by 30th April (the vaccine can only be given to animals more than 3 months old) or who are born after 30th April must be vaccinated before they are 6 months old and before they leave the holding they were born on. If you bring an animal in from a Free Zone it must be vaccinated within 14 days.

The Scottish Government have pledged £2.6 million pounds towards the cost of the Merial Blue Tongue vaccine only, so we propose to use it. At the moment we do not have an exact price for the vaccine but we expect it to cost to you to be between 44p + VAT & 58p + VAT per dose. We have included a summary of the Blue Tongue vaccine data sheet below so that you know a bit more about it. We hope it helps answer some of your questions.

Summary of BTVPur AlSap 8 vaccine data sheet.

Manufactured by Merial licenced for vaccination of cattle and sheep against Blue Tongue Virus serotype 8.

Dose 1ml given by subcutaneous injection (under the skin). Store the vaccine in the fridge (2 – 8 oC) but let it reach ambient temperature (15 - 25 oC) before using it. Shake the bottle before use paying particular attention to make sure no bubbles are injected, ensure vaccination equipment is clean and sterile and only healthy animals are vaccinated. The data sheet says it is available in 50 and 100 dose packs but at the moment only the 100 dose packs are available, the expected date the 50 dose packs will be available is December 2008 but this has not been conformed. Use within 8 hours of opening vial. This is an inactivated vaccine.

The vaccine’s safety in pregnant or lactating animals has not yet been established, however there have been few reports of problems. After vaccination most animals run a temperature of 1 oC above normal and may get a swelling at the site of injection, lasting upto 8 weeks, occasionally an abcess may form at the site of injection. Do not mix with any other medicinal product and work to establish compatibility and efficacy when given with other vaccines has not been done. There is a zero withdrawal period for milk and meat.

Sheep need 1 dose, given from 3 month’s of age, immunity is present 3 weeks after injection. The timing of booster vaccinations have not been established but it is recommended that animals are re-vaccinated at least 2 weeks before each risk period.

Cattle need 2 doses given 1 month apart. Again the minimum age of vaccination is 3 month’s old. Immunity is present 3 weeks after the second injection. The timing of booster vaccinations have not been established but it is recommended that animals are re-vaccinated at least 2 weeks before each risk period.

Duration of immunity has not been established.

The vaccine has only been tested for safety in cattle and sheep, if used in other at risk ruminant species then care should be taken and it is advisable to test the vaccine on a small number of animals prior to mass vaccination.

Use the pre-midge season wisely to minimise the bluetongue threat.

The threat of Bluetongue and all that goes with that – from movement restrictions to vaccination strategy and from contingency plans for dealing with sick animals to how midges spread the virus – is at the forefront of everyone’s mind as we head towards spring.
Currently, producers throughout the UK are dealing with the implications of the tight controls associated with Protection and Surveillance Zones (PZ and SZ). At the same time, everyone is carefully monitoring reports concerning the rise in midge numbers that goes with warmer temperatures. In the period before the vaccine becomes available, testing and bio-security are essential. Farmers should also discuss disease prevention with the practice; and that means both vaccination and management to minimise the midge threat.
Livestock farmers across the country are being advised to get their fly treatments on early this season to help control biting and nuisance flies, and in particular any midges that could be infected with the bluetongue virus. It is advisable to monitor daytime temperatures, and when these reach 12º-15ºC (the temperature at which the bluetongue virus replicates inside midges), get on with a treatment that controls midges. In some parts of the country, this might be as early as late April
While fly treatments with midge activity cannot guarantee protection against bluetongue, what they can do is kill the female midges that are responsible for transmitting the disease, and in doing so limit the replication of these much-worried-about insects. Fewer midges mean fewer animals are bitten and the chance of limiting the spread of the disease is improved. Currently there’s only one fly treatment in the UK that has trial data to show its effectiveness against midges, and that is Intervet’s Butox SWISH.
It is relatively easy to assess populations of larger flies, such as the face fly and stable fly, and apply a pour-on treatment when they become problematic. However, it is not necessarily so when it comes to midges. The midges which are capable of infecting cattle and sheep with the bluetongue virus are much smaller than most flies (typically only 3mm long) and subsequently much harder to see, even at high populations. 
The lifecycle of the culicoides midge necessitates more frequent treatments. While users of Intervet’s Butox SWISH would normally expect 8 to 10 weeks of cover from a single application, when it comes to midge control, treatments need to be applied to cattle every four weeks. 
In this important pre-vaccination period, an enquiry recording form has also been set up by Intervet to allow vets to collect the names and details of anyone making enquiries about vaccination. Simply inform the practice of the number of sheep and cattle that the vaccine is required for; this information will help your vet to estimate how much vaccine needs ordering.
Be vigilant for early signs

As we head into Autumn, all livestock producers should be aware that this is the time when bluetongue disease may show itself in unvaccinated stock. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health is therefore, keen to encourage further uptake of the vaccine, Bovilis® BTV8 – particularly as supplies are currently plentiful.

But the manufacturers also want to alert people to the many other diseases which BTV can easily be confused with. As experience in Europe has shown, early recognition of this devastating virus is essential if vets are to make a prompt diagnosis and offer appropriate treatments.

Despite its name, a blue or purple colouration of the tongue is reported in only 20% of cases of bluetongue in sheep and fewer than 6% in cattle. The most significant and worrying disease it can be confused with is foot and mouth disease (FMD) – especially in cattle when there is a lot of drooling saliva.

In sheep, FMD symptoms are relatively mild, usually temporary lameness. In comparison, the classic sign of BTV in sheep is a swollen face – absent in FMD. Also typical of FMD, is the fast spread of disease within the herd with the majority of animals suffering from clinical signs. In bluetongue outbreaks, only a small number of animals are affected.

Look through the check-list below of diseases with similar symptoms, then contact your vet for more information and log on to

This condition can cause swelling of lips and muzzle which could be confused with bluetongue. 
Haemonchosis (and chronic liver fluke infestations)
Cases with ‘bottle jaw’ may be confused with swollen head symptom of BTV. Lameness 
All causes of lameness with swelling and lesions of the coronet may be confused with BTV. 
Cobalt/vitamin B12 deficiency
A typical clinical sign is a swollen face (usually chronic cases) which may be confused with BTV. 
Photosensitisation and facial eczema
BTV often looks like a case of photosensitisation or severe facial eczema however, with photosensitisation and eczema, there are no lesions inside the mouth.

This is primarily a respiratory disease without the lameness or teat lesions often seen in cases of BTV.
Mucosal disease
The most common clinical sign of mucosal disease is diarrhoea, but this is not present in BTV cases. 
As for sheep above.