Nothern Ireland's Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Robert Huey, has urged farmers to remain vigilant following the province's first confirmed case of the goat disease, Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE).

As a result of surveillance activity, DAERA has confirmed that a goat tested positive on a holding in County Londonderry. CAE is a notifiable disease in NI.

Dr Huey said: “This is the first ever confirmation of the CAE virus in NI, other than those recorded at post-import checks. The virus is found worldwide, but until this detection, the disease has never been recorded on the island of Ireland. The goat was imported from Great Britain and an initial epidemiological assessment has concluded that the most likely source of infection was at the herd of origin in GB.

“It is thanks to the Department’s ongoing annual surveillance activity that the disease was detected in this animal, allowing effective disease control measures to be actioned. Movement restrictions were placed on the premises and animals were slaughtered under DAERA supervision.”

Dr Huey said that keeping disease out was vital for trade and urged farmers to continue to practise good bio-security measures.

“While CAE certainly adversely affects the health of goats due to pain and disability, the presence of this disease could potentially have serious economic implications," he said. "The economic impact of CAE includes reduced productivity, early culling, paralysis and death in kids, gradual drop in milk yield due to mastitis and potential damage to export sales.

“It is essential that we continue to take the necessary steps to protect our animals, industry, international trade and the wider economy. I would strongly encourage farmers to follow DAERA guidance on responsible sourcing of animals and to be aware of the significant risks and the potentially adverse consequences, both for themselves and for the industry of a disease incursion.”

The main clinical sign of CAE is lameness caused by arthritis in the older animal. Most goats are infected at an early age, remain virus positive for life and can transmit the virus. The disease develops months to years later. Other clinical signs include hard udder syndrome, poor condition of coat, loss of hair and paralysis in kids’ legs.