With the Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland’s (AHWNI’s) BVD eradication programme now completing its ninth month of the compulsory tag and test regime, the UFU recently met with the AHWNI implementation group to discuss the progress of the scheme.
Figures presented show that over 17,600 breeding herds have joined the scheme to date, with over 800,000 animals having their BVD status directly assigned and over 450,000 dams having their BVD status indirectly assigned.
Since the start of the compulsory phase, over 2,500 tests have been identified as BVD positive (0.70% of animals tested).
The UFU is currently consulting with its livestock committees to establish what action farmers would like to see taken to ensure that Persistently Infected animals (PIs) are removed from farms as early as possible. As an industry led scheme, the approach taken to date has been for light touch enforcement, relying on individuals voluntarily complying with the scheme in the best interests of their own herd’s health and their own farm’s profitability, and considering the risks that PI animals can pose to neighbouring herds. As such, the UFU is currently considering whether additional measures should be implemented.
The dangers of retaining BVD positive animals
Following the meeting, the UFU would like to re-emphasis to farmers that PI animals are the primary source of BVD infection, as they will continue to shed BVD virus at high levels for the remainder of their life. Should you opt to keep a PI animal, you are choosing to jeopardise the profitability of your own business as infection with BVD virus (persistent or transient) is highly likely to cause issues such as diarrhoea, reduced food conversion, reduced weight gain or milk yield, reduced fertility and abortions, and reduced immunity which will increase the likelihood of animals becoming infected with other diseases. Current estimates suggest that BVD annually costs the NI cattle sector more than £20 million each year. The current cost/benefit ratio of eradicating the disease from an infected herd is estimated to be 1:14 in dairy herds and 1:5 in beef herds.
Cessation of Negative Declaration letters
In addition to this, the UFU wants to inform members that from 1st January 2017, ‘Negative Declaration’ letters following BVD testing will no longer be sent to herdowners. Herdowners will continue to receive letters relating to positive results, inconclusive results, no sample received, and identification of a Dam of a Persistently Infected animal (DAMPI) or Offspring of a Persistently Infected animal (OFFPI). Herdowners who have nominated a mobile phone number to AHWNI will continue to receive their results via SMS text message. Any farmer wishing to nominate a mobile number may text their Herd Number to 07340 023814. Nominated veterinary practices also have access to their herdowners’ results. Alternatively, herdowners can access and print off their BVD test results by going to http://www.animalhealthni.com and logging on using their Government Gateway ID and password.