Over recent months, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has continued with efforts to speed up the eradication of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) from Northern Ireland.
Broadly speaking, efforts made by the industry have been very successful, and the total number of BVD positive animals alive has fallen from 1,244 in April 2018 to 557 in November 2019.
Additionally, the number of herds containing a BVD positive animal has also fallen from 785 to 378 over the same period (see chart).
Whilst disease prevalence has been decreasing, the retention of BVD positive animals by some farmers continues to slow efforts to eradicate the disease. At the start of November 2019, there were 427 BVD positive animals in 283 herds that had been retained on-farm for over five weeks. In order to address this issue, veterinary practices have recently increased their efforts to inform these herd owners of the benefits of removing BVD positive animals from their herds.
In addition to these efforts, the UFU has been engaged in ongoing discussions with other industry stakeholders exploring the possibility of adding a non-conformance to the Northern Ireland beef and lamb farm quality assurance scheme (FQAS) for the retention of BVD positive animals. These efforts have now come to a successful conclusion and in the coming months, measures will come into force meaning that retention of a BVD positive animal will result in the suspension of the farm’s FQAS status until the situation is rectified. Given that roughly 70% of retained BVD positive animals are currently held on FQAS farms, it is believed that this measure will be another significant step towards BVD eradication within Northern Ireland.
Whilst it is acknowledged that this measure may not be universally popular, it is important for producers to be aware that as an industry, we are now dealing with the tail end of this disease and control measures are only likely to continue to tighten until eradication has been reached. As such, the quicker all farmers take steps to remove BVD positive animals from their farms, the quicker our entire industry will achieve BVD eradication.