BVD testing to become compulsory

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Testing for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) virus in new-born calves, including stillbirths and abortions, is to become compulsory next March, the Minister has revealed.

On Monday Minister Michelle O’Neill announced that her officials will bring forward draft legislation for consideration by the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development on 8 December 2015 with a view to it coming into operation on 1 March 2016.

She added: “The interval between announcing my decision now and the commencement date of the legislation will not only allow industry body Animal Health and Welfare NI (AWHNI) time to make any necessary operational arrangements but will also provide herd keepers some time to use up any stock of any standard cattle identification tags they have acquired, prior to purchasing the new BVD tissue sample enabled tags.”

The minister said she has good reason to believe that the application of this legislation will be an important step towards eradicating BVD from the herd in Northern Ireland and that while the additional costs to each herd keeper would be relatively low, the overall industry contribution over a three-year period would be over £5 million.

AWHNI will lead in the implementation of the legislation relating to a production disease.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has said that as an industry, this is something that they have been calling for over the past three years and it is undoubtedly positive progress for the livestock sector.

“Improving animal health is a priority for all farmers and compulsory testing is the only way we will be able to eradicate BVD from our herds,” said UFU president, Ian Marshall.

“We believe the eradication of BVD from Northern Ireland is imperative. Not only will it result in significant on farm cost savings and improve production efficiencies it will also maintain live export opportunities to countries where similar BVD schemes are already up and running,” said Mr Marshall.

The UFU president said that with many of Northern Ireland’s trading partners and competitors having already made strides to tackle BVD, progress here is vital so that farmers do not find themselves at a disadvantage.

“It is estimated that the eradication of BVD in Northern Ireland could add £30 million a year to the local agricultural sector. This makes it imperative that farmers take a proactive approach, by removing all persistently infected (PI) animals within their herd,” Mr Marshall added.

The UFU is now encouraging DARD to work towards ensuring this legislation is in place before the calving season reaches its peak in March 2016.