Calls for changes to Farm Quality Assurance to ramp up NI’s BVD eradication efforts

Two major Northern Ireland industry bodies are calling for amendments to the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme to speed up efforts to eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) from the region.

The disease is estimated to cost Northern Ireland’s beef and lamb sector millions of pounds in inefficiency.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and Northern Ireland Meat Export Association (NIMEA) are pushing for assured farms to be required to quarantine infected animals and retest or remove them again within 35 days.

UFU deputy president David Brown said: “At the beginning of September, the UFU met with NIMEA to discuss our proposals.

“We reached an agreement to request that the NI Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assured Scheme include requirements to appropriately isolate BVD positive animals and for positive animals to be retested with negative results or removed within 35 days of the farmer receiving the initial positive test result.

“If our requests are approved by the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme board, this will be another significant step towards the eradication of BVD in NI.”

Progress

The industry has already made significant progress to reduce BVD positive animal numbers and retention.

In the last 12 months, herds with BVD positive animals have fallen by 39% and retained animals with the disease are down 43%.

At the end of July this year, there were 431 herds with 669 BVD positive animals alive, which is down from August 2018 when there were 699 herds with 1,062 animals.

On retained, there were 437 animals alive, which was down from 758 back in August 2018. At present, 69% of retained positive animals are currently on quality-assured farms.

“Many farmers are tackling the issue head-on. However, some are still holding on to BVD positive animals,” Brown added.

Adding the requirement to isolate and remove a BVD positive animal within 35 days of a positive test into the NIFQAS [Northern Ireland Farm Quality Assurance Scheme], will help to substantially reduce the number of infectious animals in the country.

“Ultimately, this action will minimise the risk to disease-free herds, reduce antibiotic usage and improve the health and welfare of the Northern Ireland cattle herd. All are positive steps moving us towards our goal of BVD eradication faster.”