The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed new inspections to crack down on BVD animal retention as a "step in the right direction".

The UFU urged members to ensure they are abiding by the 2016 Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) Order and isolating animals following a positive tissue test result.

It comes just days after the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) announced that spot checks will be carried out in the coming weeks to check if positive animals are being isolated accordingly.

Herd keepers who have not isolated BVD-positive animals may be prosecuted and, if convicted, may be fined up to £5,000 for a single animal, or up to £1,000/animal if more than five animals are involved.

UFU deputy president William Irvine said: “The UFU are pleased that DAERA are making moves towards implementing the 2016 Order by actioning isolation visits.

"We have made strong progress with reductions of BVD positive animals, but it does continue to be a huge cost to the industry.

The spots checks outlined in the 2016 Order will play a crucial part in eradicating the disease in Northern Ireland as quickly as possible.

"However, there are more aspects to the 2016 Order that have not yet been applied and this announcement is merely a step in the right direction.”

The 2016 Order makes provision for the ban of slaughtering BVD untagged animals as well as further herd restrictions for any herd which continues to keep persistently infected animals.

“We urge our members to be aware of the spot checks and to ensure that if they retain a BVD positive animal that it is being isolated correctly.

Every farmer must play their part in eradicating this disease and isolation is essential to protect the health of the remaining herd and the entire livestock sector.

"Therefore, the best course of action when a BVD positive animal is identified is to remove it immediately from the remaining herd.

"Anyone who is found to be breaching the isolation requirements could be prosecuted and if convicted may face a significant fine,” said Irvine.

BVD Eradication

Much progress has been made towards the eradication of BVD in Northern Ireland since the region’s BVD eradication programme began just under four years ago.

After the first year of the programme, at February 2017, the rolling 12-month animal prevalence of BVD was 0.66%; by the end of November 2020 it had fallen to 0.29%, a decrease of 56%.

During the same period, the percentage of herds with initial positive or inconclusive results had fallen from 11.46% to 4.27%, demonstrating a 62% decrease in the proportion of herds affected by the disease.