Free BVD (Bovine viral diarrhoea) testing for cattle farmers in Wales has been extended until March 31, 2021.

The testing, which is provided through Gwaredu BVD, supports both youngstock testing and the hunt for persistently infected animals in order to help herds eliminate the disease and achieve BVD free status.

More than 8,300 herds in Wales are now part of the programme and financial support is available to hunt PIs until the end of 2022.

Since launching in 2017, more than 8,300 herds in Wales have joined the programme.

Funding for Young Stock Screening has been extended from August 31, 2020, to March 31, 2021, with financial support available to hunt PIs until the end of 2022.

With 78% of farms in Wales now free from BVD, additional funding will allow vets to conduct further testing - if needed - to protect this rate.

This increased payment rate for fourth tests will apply retrospectively from April 27, 2020. Any fourth tests conducted before the extension date (September 1, 2020) will be honoured and paid as part of the extended programme.

John Griffiths, Gwaredu BVD programme manager said: “We’re delighted to be able to offer further support to vets to encourage their clients to screen for BVD and give farmers additional time to prepare for the future in these difficult times.

“We urge the continuation of testing for BVD or those to test for the first time if they haven’t done so already.

The welfare and financial consequences are significant, with an approximate cost of £4,500/year for the average beef herd, and £15,000 for dairy herds as a result of poor fertility, reduced milk yields, low daily live weight gains, fever, diarrhoea and respiratory problems.

“From the Gwaredu BVD team, we’d like to say a huge thank you for your continued support and efforts to eradicate BVD in Wales. We’re here to support you and answer any questions you may have about the extended programme.”

The voluntary phase of testing for BVD in Wales ends on March 31, 2021. An industry paper has been submitted to the Welsh Government for consideration of possible legislative support following this voluntary industry-led campaign.

A consultation will take place in the Autumn where the industry will be given the opportunity to comment before any final decision is made.

Dr. Hazel Wright, Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) senior policy officer, welcomed the news.

She said: “The FUW, along with other industry bodies, continues to work towards those measures which will help Wales eliminate BVD.

This extension allows more time for cattle herds to engage in this free testing programme in order to ensure that they have prepared their herds for the possibility of BVD legislation next year.

“We continue to encourage our members to participate in Gwaredu BVD and we are urging members to take advantage of this additional funding in order to determine the status of their herd and to work towards eliminating the disease where any issues are found."