Northern Irish farmers face BVD crackdown

Northern Irish cattle farmers who are failing to test animals for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) could be prosecuted in the latest government crackdown on untested herds.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) has announced that tougher measures will be taken with farmers that are not complying with the 2016 BVD Eradication Scheme Order.

The order requires all cattle in Northern Ireland – including stillbirths and abortions – born after 1 March 2016 to be tagged with a tissue-sample enabled tag.  

Herds with significant numbers of untested animals born since 1 March 2016 will be contacted and given a 30-day ultimatum to have animals tested. Failure to do so may result in prosecution, Daera has warned. 

Last week, Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland released maps showing a fall in numbers of persistently infected (PI) cattle since October 2018. However, ‘some pockets’ of PIs had remained.

See also: Beef producer calls for BVD control to be made compulsory

‘Disappointing’

Chief veterinary officer Dr Robert Huey said: “Since BVD testing became compulsory we have seen a significant drop in the prevalence of BVD. However, it is disappointing that a small number of herd keepers continue to keep untested animals.

“Some of these are likely to be persistently infected with BVD virus so they are a disease risk, both to the current herd and to neighbouring herds.”

He added that BVD eradication depends on herd keepers being aware of the status of their animals and that court enforcement would be used if necessary.

What is BVD?

BVD is a highly contagious, viral infection that currently affects 7% of cattle herds in Northern Ireland. 

It can be transmitted across the placenta from cow to calf resulting in permanently (persistently) infected calves being born with this virus. These animals excrete large amounts of the virus their whole life so identifying and removing these animals is key to the success of disease control. 

Transmission during pregnancy can cause abortion and death. 

What Northern Irish farmers need to do to tag and test

  • Take ear tissue samples as soon as possible after birth (as soon as the calf is dry)
  • Submit samples to an approved laboratory within seven days
  • Ensure a submission form is enclosed in the envelope and that correct postage is applied to avoid delays and write the return address on the envelope.