Criminals have attempted to infect a herd of cattle with a virulent livestock disease by dumping part of a calf carcass in silage that was being used to feed heifers in Co Armagh.
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development vets have joined forces with police to investigate, as the calf leg that was found may have been infected with brucellosis and could pass the disease on to the heifers.
The PSNI is taking the matter seriously as brucellosis is classified as an agent that could potentially be used as a biological weapon, Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew said.
Police were called in last year following a spate of sinister incidents. An infected calf foetus was left at the home of a department official, while another was found slashed open and sprinkled with cattle feed near a feeding trough at a Co Armagh farm.
Last night Ms Gildernew said she was appalled to hear that part of a calf had been placed in contact with the group of heifers.
“If the leg came from a brucellosis-infected calf there is a real risk that cattle eating the silage will also now have brucellosis,” she said.
The calf carcass has been submitted to the AFBI laboratory for DNA testing. The cattle that may have come into contact with the carcass will also be tested |for brucellosis.
“There is no suggestion that the farmer who reported this incident is in any way implicated. It was the farmer’s prompt action that led to the discovery of the risk and the immediate investigation by my veterinary staff and the PSNI,” the minister pointed out.
“There have been several incidents in Armagh in the last year that have led to local hotspots of disease.
“This has cost the taxpayer and farmers millions of pounds. Any malicious attempt to spread disease is an attack on the whole of the farming community.”