DAERA and Animal Health & Welfare Northern Ireland (AHWNI) need to get together quickly in order to sort out the problems that exist with the current BVD testing programme.
And the fundamental starting point must be the provision of envelopes with pre-paid postage included. This, at the very least, would give a guarantee to farmers that their tissue samples will reach the intended laboratory.
There is also a requirement for mart owners to access the up to date BVD status of a calf – whatever its age – prior to it going through the ring. If an animal then shows up as being untested, the owner in question can be told this, the instant he or she deposits the movement permit with the mart staff. All of this should be possible, given the scope of modern IT systems.
DAERA should also consider writing out again to the almost 2,500 farmers who received BVD test letters, telling them that no fault, whatsoever, is being laid at their door regarding the purchase of ‘so called’ untested calves. Let’s be clear about this: these animals were bought in good faith. I use the term ‘so called’ in the last sentence because it turns out that many of the calves claimed not to be tested by DAERA were, in fact, tissue sampled and the required BVD testing procedures subsequently carried out.
Fundamentally, the BVD eradication scheme is a good news story for Northern Ireland. It’s a disease that is costing local farmers £millions annually. And the quicker we consign it to the history books the better.
But to make this happen will require a scheme that allows farmers to participate in the most straightforward way possible. After all, producers are actually paying for the eradication programme, courtesy of the costs associated with the new tissue sampling ear tags.
And the other question which arises is this: what else can be done to make better use of the tissue samples that are being submitted for laboratory analysis? The option of amassing a genomics’ data base on every calf born in Northern Ireland comes immediately to mind. In this day and age, information is king and genomics has the potential to unlock future cattle breeding programmes that can make a real difference on-farm very quickly!