The UK should follow the example set by the Republic of Ireland on tackling bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), the NFU deputy president told the Semex Conference.
During a question and answer session following her presentation at the event in Glasgow on Monday (11 January), Minette Batters, NFU deputy president, was told Britain’s struggle to address BVD and other non-statutory and statutory diseases has left it perceived as a “dirty country”.
Responding, Ms Batters said the “industry has to take control” to eradicate BVD, adding that lessons can be learned from Ireland.
“We should not be trying to reinvent the wheel,” she said. “Animal Health Ireland followed Animal Health Australia for one very good reason – they knew it had worked.”
Mandatory BVD virus testing is written into law in Ireland.
Under the compulsory eradication programme, herd keepers are required to test all newborn calves for the BVD virus within the first 20 days of life.
Animal Health Ireland, a partnership between the industry and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, oversees the scheme.
Similar legislation is in place in Scotland, where herd keepers are required to test each year for BVD.
Northern Ireland could join them as early as 1 March if proposed legislation is approved.
In a recent online poll on bovine viral diarrhoea, Farmers Weekly readers voted in favour of introducing similar legislation in England and Wales.
“For the last 10 years, I can remember going to see the livestock board to talk about a national BVD eradication programme. Ten years ago. And where are we?” said Ms Batters.
“The Irish will not keep quiet about this, the Scottish will not keep quiet about this, and we have to deliver on it.”
Ms Batters also branded bovine TB “the biggest threat to our livestock industry.”
The UK government has “a key role to play” in dealing with bovine TB.
She said we have a “unique situation” in the UK, in that our bovine TB vector – the badger – is protected.
“We can’t continue with only part of the solution – livestock controls being applied without also seeing effective solutions in wildlife too, including surveillance in badgers.”
“We remain convinced that achieving a TB eradication board for England is crucial to bearing this disease.”