UFU says new BVD measures fall short

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union has claimed measures announced by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to prevent the spread of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) do not go far enough.

From 12 February, AHWNI BVD statuses from both the voluntary and compulsory phases of the BVD Eradication Scheme will be visible on the DAERA computer base, APHIS.

While welcoming the department’s effort to curb the spread of the disease, UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt said the group had been left frustrated that the measures do not ‘go one step further’.

Mr Chestnutt said: “The UFU has been calling for restrictions on BVD infected animals for some time now. However, we are frustrated that DAERA hasn’t been able to take this one step further and impose herd restrictions on any farm retaining PIs.

“Once Stormont is up and running again, we want to see legislation introduced to this effect. We are determined to see this disease eradicated once and for all. While we wait for a government, the industry has taken matters into its own hands and is investigating options for tackling the disease, such as asking processors to stop buying PI cattle born after the date the compulsory phase of the BVD scheme began.”

This change will enable herd owners to view their BVD statuses on APHIS online and APHIS herd lists, and will help them prevent any mistaken movement of animals which do not have a negative BVD status.

To prevent any mistaken movements of BVD-ineligible animals, APHIS movement restrictions are also being introduced. For animals born on or after 1 March 2016, only negative (BVDN) animals can be permitted through a market, permitted directly to another herd or exported (including via an Export Assembly Centre). In the case of animals born before 1 March 2016, any which are positive (BVDP), inconclusive (BVDI), dam of a persistently infected (PI) calf (DAMPI) or offspring of a PI (OFFPI) cannot be permitted to a market, permitted directly to another herd or exported (including via an Export Assembly Centre).

Any animal taken to a market when movement is not allowed will be apparent to the market operator and will not be sold. Any such animals must be returned to the herd from which it moved. Farmers are reminded to check the BVD status of previously purchased animals through their access to the AHWNI database or from February onwards on APHIS.

Sam Strain, CEO of AHWNI, said: “BVD costs the cattle industry in Northern Ireland millions of pounds each year. The addition of BVD statuses to APHIS and the application of movement controls to non-negative animals will greatly assist in protecting herds from this important disease. Herd owners should discuss testing of positive or inconclusive calves, their dams and other offspring where relevant with their private vet. An animal with an ‘Unknown’ status may mean that it has not been tested or an unsuitable sample has been taken: in these cases a button tag may be applied and an ear tissue tag sample submitted for testing.”

He added: “Such testing will accelerate the disclosure of positive animals, allowing herd owners to cull them at an earlier stage. Veterinary advice is that PI animals should be humanely destroyed as soon as possible after receipt of an initial or re-test positive result.

“These new measures will complement the current Eradication Scheme, intensify the drive to remove PIs, and so accelerate progress towards the eradication of BVD.”

Outlining his commitment to BVD eradication, Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey said: “DAERA has responded to AHWNI and Industry requests to bring individual BVD statuses from the AHWNI Database into the same system as cattle movements, the APHIS system. This is a very significant step as it will reduce the risk of non-negative BVD animals being mistakenly moved.”

He continued: “The changes announced today will help support the Industry’s efforts to eradicate BVD, but the retention of persistently infected animals is still a problem and I again urge herd keepers to follow AHWNI’s advice and remove these animals as soon as possible. The Department will continue to work closely with AHWNI to reduce and ultimately to eradicate this production disease.”

More information about BVD can be found on the AHWNI website at: http://www.animalhealthni.com