So far more than 1.9 million calves born in 2013 have been tested for BVD. This is according to Dr David Graham, BVD programme manager at Animal Health Ireland.

Testing of ear notches from calves for BVD virus has continued during the third quarter of 2013, although at a reduced rate compared to the preceding quarter. By the end of the period more than 1.9 million calves born in 2013 had been tested. Overall 0.77 per cent were positive, 0.03 per cent inconclusive and 1.12 per cent were empty (no tissue sample present), with the remainder testing negative.”

In its latest newsletter, Dr Graham outlined a review of the compliance with the programme guidelines by herds that took part in the voluntary programme in 2012.

“All herds that had submitted results to the database received letters informing them either that they were compliant with the guidelines and that their results from 2012 would, therefore, count as the first of the three anticipated years of tag testing, or that one or more animals in their herds had not complied with the guidelines.

“These ‘non-compliant’ letters included lists of relevant animals in each herd and the steps that farmers could take to address non-compliances. Herd owners were advised that a further review of their herds would be undertaken in early October 2013, taking into account additional results received by the database at that time. Each herd owner will then receive a further letter informing them if their herd is considered compliant following additional testing. An appeals process will also be available as part of this review.”

According to Dr Graham, the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation completed a number of development actions during this period.

“These include the automatic issuing of SMS messages and letters from the Implementation Group and Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine advising herd owners of animals that are eight and 12 weeks overdue for testing. In addition, all herd owners who have not provided a mobile telephone number received a letter in July, advising them of all negative results in their herds to date (individual letters relating to animals with non-negative results already having been issued).  The occurrence of conflicts between the date of birth and date of test for a small number of animals was also identified and a protocol established to allow herd owners to correct these.”

During this period, the Agriculture Department also announced the provision of €100 compensation for the second and subsequent PI animal culled from suckler herds and recorded as dead on the Animal Information and Movement system.

“It is hoped that this will encourage the prompt disposal of PI calves in this sector. Analysis of programme information has indicated that at the end of September 2013, 61.5 per cent of all PI animals born in 2013 had been culled, although this figure increases to 75-80 per cent for those born during the first months of 2013.

“A study on the retention of PI calves born during the voluntary phase of the programme in 2012, and the impact of this on outcomes in 2013, has been initiated in collaboration with the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Assessment at University College Dublin.”

During the third quarter, the Technical Working Group (TWG) has been developing recommendations for the criteria to enable herds to move to the monitoring phase of the programme and the monitoring strategies to be used therein.

Dr Graham continued: “The implementation group continues to discuss these with the intention of finalising them during quarter four. Transition criteria are likely to include the stipulation that all animals within the herd have had a negative BVD status (by direct or indirect testing) and that there has been no evidence of persistent or transient infection with BVD virus in the 12 months preceding transition to the monitoring phase. The TWG has also issued recommendations regarding the current and future role of BVD vaccine in the programme. Two papers describing the establishment, delivery, outcomes and participant attitudes to the voluntary phase of the programme have been submitted to the ‘Veterinary Record’ and are expected to be published shortly.”

Further information is available on the BVD programme is available here.