Northern Ireland farmer reveals the horrendous cost BVD infection has brought to his suckler enterprise

A Northern Ireland farmer has spoken of the “horrendous” cost BVD infection has brought to his suckler enterprise.

The herd owner, who does not wish to be named, has suffered the loss of more than a dozen calves this season.

Strong and healthy calves were with their dams at grass when the BVD Positive results came through. They were then housed in isolation until blood samples could be taken by the farm’s vet.

The results of testing of these blood samples confirmed the disease and culling was then promptly arranged.

The herd owner has suffered the loss of more than a dozen calves this season.

The costs have been high, with veterinary call out costs, resampling and disposal costs totalling £32 per calf - these costs are in addition to the loss of calves that might have been worth £250 to £300 each if they had not been infected with the BVD virus.

In total, the outbreak has cost over £4,000 using current calf values, however, the loss is much greater when the potential value of weaned stock is considered.

A decision has also been made to vaccinate the herd, at a further cost of over £1,000 this year.

Financial costs are not the only toll in this type of situation. There is farmer time involved, which is not always counted, and the quandary over how to deal with suckler cows that no longer have a calf.

Strong and healthy calves have had to be culled.

The loss of income from these cows for the year, and having to witness calves being put down on farm, is emotionally draining for the farmer, stockpersons and the wider family.

There are plans in place to roll out herd restrictions next year in cases where BVD Positive animals are being retained. Currently, DAERA does not inform farmers of BVD infection in neighbouring herds, as new legislation is required to allow this.

Industry through the BVD Implementation Group has been calling for legislation to incorporate biosecurity notifications, in addition to other measures, that would accelerate progress towards the eradication of BVD.

The BVD Implementation Group is a cross industry body convened by Animal Health and Welfare NI to take forward planning and implementation of an industry-led national BVD eradication programme.