News - November 15, 2007

Bluetongue costs more than vaccination

The bluetongue virus outbreak has cost the Dutch livestock sector 81 million euros so far. VHL student Karen Hoogendam calculated the costs for the Dutch Federation of Agriculture and Horticulture, LTO Nederland. She concludes that vaccination costs would be considerably less than the damage caused by death, decreased milk yields and lower meat prices.

Hoogendam did research on bluetongue for her degrees in Farm Management and Animal Management at Van Hall Larenstein in Leeuwarden. She surveyed 599 livestock farmers to make an inventory of economic losses due to bluetongue. With the help of farmers’ organisations abroad she also collected data from Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany and France.
LTO will use her report to argue internationally in favour of vaccinating against bluetongue, Hoogendam expects. ‘In the Netherlands alone the damage amounted to 53 million euros in 2006. Carrying that over to 2007, the figure rises to 81 million. At the moment over six thousand farms are infected in this country and the number is still rising. I estimate the costs of vaccinating all cattle, sheep and goats at over 31 million in my report. I have not taken into account any potential changes in consumer behaviour.'
LTO is considering recommending compulsory vaccination of sheep and voluntary vaccination for cattle and goats to the Ministry of Agriculture. Vaccination is the only way to combat outbreaks of bluetongue, according to the farmers’ organisation. If the surrounding countries opt for compulsory vaccination, LTO is likely to follow suit.