The first case of bluetongue disease has been detected in Northern Ireland, it emerged today.
A heifer imported to a north Antrim farm in January was slaughtered last night after it tested positive for the killer livestock disease.
And today Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew urged farmers importing such animals to the province to "wise up".
The Minister said she wants to keep Northern Ireland's disease-free status for as long as possible and the best way for bluetongue to become established is for it to be brought in as imports.
Ms Gildernew said she does not have the powers to ban farmers from importing livestock from bluetongue-infected areas of Europe, but added: "I am asking them, for the sake of the industry, not to import bluetongue from infected areas."
Northern Ireland retains its bluetongue-free status, as the virus has not been found circulating in the midge population. The disease is spread to sheep and cattle by midges carrying the virus.
The animal, imported in a consignment from the Netherlands, tested positive for the virus following routine post-import testing undertaken by the Department of Agriculture.
The Minister said: "I have restricted the herd and all of the animals will now be tested for any other evidence of infection.
"The Department will also now be tracing and testing associated herds.
"Meanwhile, an epidemiological investigation has begun to assess the situation. This investigation will help determine if disease is circulating, but at this time there is no evidence to suggest that it is.
"Therefore, at this time the north's bluetongue-free status remains."
The Minister warned that no compensation will be paid to farmers whose livestock are slaughtered on suspicion of carrying bluetongue.
"That advice is now more important than ever - it is the responsibility of farmers to ensure they do not bring bluetongue to the North.
"I want to emphasise that all herd owners should be vigilant for signs of the disease and the farmers who are importing these animals should wise up. At this minute in time the best way to get bluetongue in Northern Ireland is to import it. We want to keep our disease-free status for as long as possible."
Eight animals in the consignment have shown signs of contact with bluetongue.
The minister said she did not envy anyone who brings disease into Northern Ireland: "I am torn between feeling sorry for him and being mad at him."