More than 600 BVD enforcement letters sent from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) contained incorrect information, it has been revealed.
A statement from DAERA confirmed that farmers from 427 purchasing herds and 194 selling herds - a total of 621 - received the communication which related to calves which were thought to have been moved from farms without the correct testing having taken place.
A spokesperson for DAERA said: “The department can confirm that it recently issued 2,430 enforcement letters in relation to calves which appear to have moved from farms before BVD tests were carried out or before BVD negative results were available. This is not only non-compliance but it puts the receiving herd at potential risk of introducing BVD to the herd.
“The majority of the warning letters issued by the Department are accurate, however, 427 purchasing herds and 194 selling herds received letters containing errors, understandably causing unnecessary concern and annoyance to those receiving them. Many of these errors are paired problems with both buyer and seller being notified in relation to the same error in movement of a particular calf.
“The error occurred due to the information on the Industry’s AHWNI database on BVD test results not being sufficiently current when compared to the department’s APHIS movement data.
“The Department and AHWNI apologise unreservedly to anyone mistakenly receiving a letter. The extent of the problem has been investigated and farmers affected by the misinformation have been identified by DAERA and AHWNI working together and apology letters are currently being issued.”
Farmers affected have been swift in voicing their frustration at the error.
One farm family contacted Farming Life to share the experience they had endured after receiving an enforcement letter relating to the movement of a calf without testing.
The family from Co Tyrone, who do not wish to be identified, said the attitude from the department towards farmers was unacceptable.
The woman explained: “My husband received a letter stating that there was a calf belonging to him moved off the farm without BVD testing.
“This caused a row as my son was furious that this had happened. However when my husband went through his phone and checked through all the messages he found that the calf had in fact been tested and was clear.
“So he went down to the office in Dungannon and spoke to the staff who informed him that he was one of hundreds who had been in touch with them that morning with the same issue.
“They said it was down to computer error, but my husband explained that there was no such thing as a computer error rather human error when inputting the information.
“The staff also mentioned an overlap of information - but if the calf was tested in October and the letter is issued in January that’s a serious overlap.”
In further advice issued to farmers DAERA has explained that herd keepers can check the current BVD status of animals in their herd by logging onto the AHWNI database on the AHWNI website (www.bvdni.com) and entering their government gateway login details and password.
Non-breeding herds not registered with the AHWNI database, can contact AHWNI directly on 028 796 39333 or email email@example.com.