The Scottish Government has announced a consultation on a possible bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) eradication programme which it believes could give the country’s livestock a unique selling point in future globalised markets.
Announcing the consultation at NFU Scotland‘s annual meeting (19 February), the rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said some people believed animal health in Scotland was going through a “quiet revolution”.
The move comes hard on the heels of the newly acquired TB-free status for Scottish cattle.
Eradication of BVD would be another boost and could improve farmers’ incomes by £50-80m over the next 10 years and make a 3% contribution to Scotland’s climate change targets.
But Mr Lochhead insisted that wresting control of the animal health budget from DEFRA was fundamental to his vision and said it was time for the UK Government to deliver on promises before the election.
The anomaly whereby animal health policy is devolved to Scotland while the budget remains at Westminster has been a running sore since the beginning of the SNP administration.
“My patience is running out,” he said. “I thank NFU Scotland for its support on this matter and I am devoting a lot of energy and resources and allocating staff to persuading the UK Government to stick to its timetable for devolution of the budget.
However Mr Lochhead insisted that he would press on with plans to eradicate BVD no matter which administration held the purse strings.
In a speech which repeatedly focused on his confidence that the industry had strong future prospects, Mr Lochhead told farmers – whom he frequently referred to as “friends” – that they should avoid seeing everything as a threat. And on climate change in particular he said he would soon have the results of the government’s project on farm-level carbon foot printing.
He added: “Remember, if we find we have a lower carbon footprint, or can achieve a lower carbon footprint than our competitors, then the market will deliver a reward for Scottish producers.
“I will defend the Scottish livestock sector to the hilt because we owe it to the world to produce food.”