A meeting of the partners in the Wales-wide Gwaredu BVD programme has heard that 7,000 farms in Wales are now part of the programme.

The news has been welcomed by the Welsh red meat industry, although Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is encouraging any farmers who haven’t yet taken advantage of the project to sign up for free herd testing before the end of the project in 2020.

BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhoea) suppresses the immune system of cattle, leading to other health problems and reduced fertility. As well as impacting on animal health, it is estimated that a persistent BVD infection (PI) could cost the average Welsh beef herd £4,500 a year.

The three-year £10 million Gwaredu BVD programme is available to all beef and dairy farms in Wales, and is managed by Coleg Sir Gar in partnership with the Royal Veterinary College, with HCC and other industry bodies represented on the project planning board.

Dr. Neil Paton of the Royal Veterinary College said: “This is an important opportunity for the industry to cooperate and remove the disease for the good of the industry as a whole. Farmers and vets should take this opportunity at all levels of the supply chain to ensure that their farms are BVD-free through this project.”

HCC’s Flock and Herd Health Executive, Dr. Rebekah Stuart, said, “It was good to hear that the Gwaredu BVD project is progressing well, with over 7,000 farms now involved in the programme.

The main mode of transmission of BVD on farms is through persistently infected livestock. These animals are born with the condition and spread it throughout their lives.

“With pro-active measures such as screening, available through this programme, we can greatly reduce this disease and its cost to the industry,” she said. “Although, time is running out for farmers to get involved.

“Dealing with persistent diseases such as BVD is one of the most effective steps we can take to improve the profitability and sustainability of Welsh livestock production.

"It’s a high priority for HCC; the Gwaredu BVD programme complements our new Flock and Herd Health Planning project, which will promote pro-active animal health management on-farm.”

The first 88 farms have now been recruited onto HCC’s health planning project, which is part of its Red Meat Development Programme and is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.