Farmers must check that they have paid the required level of postage on calf tissue samples sent for BVD testing, according to Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland (AHWNI) Chief Executive Dr Sam Strain.

This was a distinct problem in the period directly after the launch of the scheme, he said.

"It was a case that some farmers were either sending envelopes off in the post without any stamps included or an inadequate level of postage paid.

“In these circumstances, many of the envelopes did not get beyond the sorting office with the result that the tissue samples were not tested.”

He said that the problem is not as bad as was initially the case, but it still remains an issue.

Dr Strain was responding to claims from the Ulster Farmers’ Union to the effect t  hat 2,400 letters have been sent to farmers regarding the movement of animals untested for BVD.

“I am aware that untested calves have been permitted off their farms of origin. A number of animals have also been sold through the marts.

“AHWNI staff are working with DAERA to ensure that untested calves cannot be sold at auction. The onus is on the original owner of the calf not to fill in an MC2 permit for calves that have not been tested for BVD.

“Farmers in receipt of such calves can have them tested either by way of a second tissue sample being submitted, courtesy of a re-tagging process. Alternatively, a blood sample can be taken and submitted for analysis.”

For its part, the Union is reminding farmers that movement of a BVD positive or untested animal is in breach of the BVD Eradication Order.

A UFU spokesperson said that breaching this legislation can result in a maximum penalty of £5,000 per animal or up to one month imprisonment.

“Farmers receiving a letter informing them that they have come into possession of an animal that has not been tested for BVD should contact AHWNI immediately.

“In such circumstances the UFU recommends that farmers should contact their tag supplier and ensure that a tissue sample is taken from the affected animals as soon as possible.”