Call for action on BVD PI retention

Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it is frustrated that a minority of farmers are risking progress by the industry towards BVD elimination, by continuing to retain persistently infected (PI) calves.

UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, says that while it is not the role of the UFU to criticise farmers, in this case a small minority is undermining the goal of the majority to eliminate a disease that undermines industry profitability.

The UFU says it and others battled to secure funding to help tackle this disease, and that a key aspect to achieve progress was the timely removal of PI calves. Mr Chestnutt says while he understands the difficulty in removing a calf which if healthy could be worth up to £400, in reality this is a false economy which poses a risk to other animals in the herd.

“While young stock may look healthy, in reality 80 per cent of PI infected calves will die before they reach productive age. During this period, they are a source of infection for other animals on the farm. This will cost the farmer money and has a significant impact on herd profitability. Under those conditions, keeping these animals defies any economic logic,” says Mr Chestnutt.

The UFU says the statistics confirm the risks in retaining PI calves. It says there is ample evidence that shows if a farmer retains a single PI calf, that in the following year there could be multiple infected animals in the herd. It says this confirms the risks involved, yet it fears that up to a third of PI calves are not being eliminated from herds.

“The UFU, AHWNI and DAERA have tried appealing to farmers, but the decisions they are making pose a risk to the entire industry. We are always reluctant to encourage action against farmers, but our role in the UFU is protecting the wider industry. For that reason, we are calling for DAERA to use its powers under the BVD Eradication legislation to enforce herd restrictions on owners that refuse to remove PI calves in a timely fashion. This would be on grounds that they pose a risk to the wider industry and our goal of eliminating this disease,” says Mr Chestnutt.