The BVD eradication programme is up and running.
So, it’s now in farmers’ hands to ensure that we despatch the disease to the history books as quickly as possible. The projected time line, in terms of getting us to our final destination, is three years. This should be feasible – particularly given the fact that the Republic of Ireland is a couple of years ahead of us here in Northern Ireland, where BVD is concerned.
And the price of eradication is one worth paying. BVD is already costing our dairy and beef sectors £millions in terms of lost production. Agriculture in Northern Ireland must become more efficient. This is one of the strategies that has to be put in place on every farm, if our industry is to overcome the challenge of price volatility. And improving the animal health status of our herds and flocks will be crucially important in this regard.
BVD is now being tackled. The next question is: do we push ahead with a similar eradication campaign, where Johne’s Disease is concerned?
And, of course, the reality is that all of the countries that we export our dairy and beef products to know that we have these diseases. And there is always the risk that they could pull the rug from under our feet – should it suit them - and stop accepting our produce on animal health grounds.
Decisions of this nature can be taken at very short notice. And where would we be left then? The expression...’up a creek without a paddle’ comes immediately to mind.
I note the arguments made by some of our politicians over recent days to the effect that the new BVD tag and test costs seem excessive. But the fact is that the Executive at Stormont was never going to step in and subsidise the eradication scheme. Farmers in other countries, including the Republic of Ireland, are funding their own BVD initiatives. So why should Northern Ireland be any different in this regard?
This is why it is so important for the livestock industry as a whole to knuckle down and ensure that BVD is eradicated as quickly as possible!