O’Neill to introduce legislation to make BVD testing compulsory

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Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle O’Neill has announced that she will bring legislation to make testing for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) virus in new-born calves, including stillbirths and abortions, compulsory.

Officials will bring forward draft legislation for consideration by the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development on 8 December 2015 with a view to it coming into operation on 1 March 2016.

The Minister said:“The interval between announcing my decision now and the commencement date of the legislation will not only allow industry body Animal Health and Welfare NI (AWHNI) time to make any necessary operational arrangements but will also provide herd keepers some time to use up any stock of any standard cattle identification tags they have acquired, prior to purchasing the new BVD tissue sample enabled tags.”

She said aims of the legislation are consistent with the commitments given in Going for Growth and that there would be considerable disease control benefits.

“As part of the Going for Growth strategy, we are committed to working with stakeholders to develop industry-led initiatives to tackle production diseases which have a significant economic impact at farm level such as BVD; as part of an overall herd health programme. We have good reason to believe that through the application of this legislation, we will be taking an important step towards eradicating BVD from the herd in the north. That would certainly be a considerable achievement and will bring BVD compulsory testing here in line with the rest of Ireland.”

The Minister said she recognised that while the additional costs to each herd keeper would be relatively low, the overall industry contribution over a three-year period would be over £5million. Putting this into context, however, the estimated financial gains made by herd keepers in eradicating BVD would outweigh these costs by a ratio of 10 to 1.

The Minister concluded: “I view this as the beginning of a new era in partnership-working between my Department and industry. For the first time AWHNI will lead in the implementation of the legislation relating to a production disease. While production diseases are the responsibility of the herd keeper and industry to resolve, appropriate support can be provided by government when it makes economic sense to do so.”