The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on a groundbreaking scheme to eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) from the Scotland’s cattle herd.
The proposed scheme, which has been welcomed by NFU Scotland, would be in two stages.
In the first phase farmers would voluntarily screen their animals for the disease.
By agreeing to slaughter those cattle persistently infected (PI) with the BVD virus they would receive £100 in addition to the animal’s market value.
In the second – compulsory – stage these cattle would have to go straight to slaughter, recompense would be nominal at best and screening tests would be mandatory.
It is thought that there are 2000-4000 PI animals in Scotland at any one time.
Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said eradication could be worth between £50m-80m in increased output and reduced business costs over the next 10 years and would also reduce the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions from the cattle sector.
However a BVD-free Scotland could place added costs on cross-border trading with England. Scotland’s chief vet Simon Hall said efforts were being made to encourage eradication in other parts of the British Isles but said if that failed to materialise trade could still continue between countries, with strict conditions in place.
He added: “If Scottish farmers choose to bring in cattle across the border they would have to quarantine them and have them tested before introducing them to the rest of the herd.”
BVD is thought to cost the Scottish beef sector £3.3m a year, with the production loss per cow infected estimated at £30. Of 300 Scottish suckler herds tested for BVD, 17% were found to have cattle permanently infected and 38% had been exposed to the disease. BVD also affects Scottish dairy herds.
NFU Scotland vice-president Nigel Miller has been a key player in the negotiations over an eradication scheme and yesterday urged the industry to look at the various models being proposed in the Scottish Government consultation.
He added: “While there will be obvious benefits to any farmer from keeping BVD out of their herd, there will also be veterinary costs associated with verifying that cattle are disease-free. We need those figures to stack up if all producers are to come on side with this proposal.”
The consultation closes on 16 July. To have your say on the BVD consultation visit www.scotland.gov.uk/Consultations/or contact Emma Patterson Taylor 0131 244 6636