NFU Scotland’s Shetland branch has welcomed the recent Scottish government decision to allow Shetland to opt for a single voluntary approach to bluetongue vaccination when the national vaccination campaign starts this winter.
The branch organised a public meeting last month to discuss Scotland’s bluetongue vaccination strategy with NFUS vice-president Nigel Miller and the Scottish government’s chief vet, Charles Milne.
At the meeting local union members stressed that Shetland’s excellent health status and the stringent import controls in place negated the need for the compulsory bluetongue vaccination. The health status of the island’s livestock coupled with the cost and logistical difficulties associated with vaccination provided a robust argument that has now been accepted by the Scottish government.
When vaccination starts in the rest of Scotland, Shetland will still be part of the protection zone and any producers on the island wishing to vaccinate will be permitted to do so.
Branch chairwoman Hazel Mackenzie said: “This is a victory for the Union and one we are very proud of securing. Purchasing vaccine and the time involved in gathering stock to administer it will have come at a considerable cost.
“By going down a voluntary route on vaccination the savings to the industry in Shetland will run into the region of £80,000 per year. This is a significant sum at a time when we are facing increasing pressure from rising costs.
“The steps taken over the years to improve and protect the health of all livestock on the island, underpinned by the testing regime for any stock being imported into Shetland, has been recognised in allowing this voluntary approach to bluetongue. This requires ongoing vigilance on our behalf but that is a price worth paying.”