simmental cows© John Eveson/Rex/Shutterstock

Farmers and veterinarians have welcomed a Northern Ireland government livestock support package to incentivise the humane destruction of calves persistently infected with bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD).

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) announced the £4m fund to assist farmers following two years of “extreme and prolonged difficulties”.  

See also: BVD campaign launches across England

The funding is also available for improving pigmeat quality, soil and nutrient management and business planning and risk management training.  

BVD funds

  • All beef and dairy farmers encouraged to “tag and test” for BVD
  • Reduce transmission risk by removing PIs promptly
  • Cost assistance with destroying PI calves given at a flat rate
  • Funds go some way to replacing the animal and not just slaughter/removal costs

The Ulster Farmers’ Union praised the use of EU emergency funding to invest in the future structure of farming, supporting the animal health focus.

See also: Video: Farmers Weekly and Boehringer Ingelheim host BVD Roundtable

President of the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) Andrew Cobner said:

“The announcement is great news for the cattle industry in Northern Ireland. BVD infection is a constant drain on the cattle industry, both through its direct effects and its indirect effects of making cattle more vulnerable to other diseases.”

He added that BVD eradication was a “very achievable goal”, which will benefit antibiotics reduction.

PI culling is critical 

Identifying PI calves and culling them is critical to reduce and eradicate BVD, according to Fiona MacGillivray of AHDB’s BVDFree England campaign, which now has more than 300 farms fully registered.

“If farmers are suspicious their herds have active BVD infection, testing for PI animals is the first important step – but if farms don’t follow the process through their efforts are wasted,” Dr MacGillivray told Farmers Weekly.

“We are working with more than 100 stakeholders in the industry, including supermarkets, laboratories and ear tag manufacturers, to look for ways we can disseminate information and increase the number of farms registering on the scheme. 

“The tests we have for BVD are excellent and a lot of work has gone into reducing the cost and increasing efficiencies in the laboratories to keep costs low for farms.”

After its midsummer launch, BVDFree England is targeting registration of 60% of farms in the first two years of the project, she added.

“If we achieve 60% it gives us something powerful to then take higher and reach out to the government to lobby for compulsory measures to ensure all farmers participate in BVD eradication.”