Animal Health Ireland has today released summary statistics from the first year of the national compulsory BVD eradication programme.

Headline figures for 2013 include:

  • 0.68% of calves tested were PI.
  • 11% of herds had one or more positive or inconclusive results; most of these herds had no more than one or two PI animals.
  • 6.7% of PI calves had a PI dam; the remainder were born as PIs due to infection of their dams in early pregnancy.
  • Over 9,000 PIs identified in 2013 are now dead, but 3% of herds have retained PIs.

Commenting on the results achieved in 2013, Joe O’Flaherty, CEO of AHI, said that “the Implementation Group is very satisfied with the outcomes of the programme this year. Irish farmers have more than played their part in making this programme a success by investing financially and otherwise in BVD eradication and by complying with the programme requirements”. In relation to the question of the retention by some farmers of PI animals, Mr. O’Flaherty said that, “while the 3% of herds nationally that have a PI on their farm are naturally a cause for concern, and while we will be making efforts on a number of fronts to encourage these farmers to cull these animals, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that over 9,000 calves born in 2013 have now been removed and that the movement of those that remain alive is restricted to the farm on which they were identified.”

In relation to the herds that have retained PI animals, Mr. O’Flaherty said that “Farmers should be aware of the possible consequence of keeping a PI on the farm. These would include increased infertility and general animal health problems, a greater risk of PIs being born in 2014, prolonged tissue testing, and the risk of introducing infection into neighbouring herds. By removing PIs promptly, these problems can be avoided.”

Key messages for farmers for the 2014 calving season

  • Tag calves and submit samples to a designated laboratory in a prompt and timely manner.
  • Ensure the correct postage is applied. The minimum postage fee for submitting tags through the postal system (even for one tag) is €1.05. An Post advises that the €1.05 fee should be sufficient for up to 10 samples provided they are packed flat, rather than bulked up within the envelope.
  • Provide AHI with a mobile phone number, if possible. By providing us with a mobile phone number you can help keep the costs of the programme down and speed up the receipt of results. To provide or update mobile phone numbers for receiving results contact the BVD Helpdesk on 076 1064590.
  • Take follow-up confirmatory tests (blood sample or tissue tag) 3 weeks after taking a first positive sample. If the status of the dams of these calves is unknown, they should be sampled too. A veterinary practitioner should be consulted about further herd investigation to make sure that any other PI animals are identified and removed without delay.
  • Cull PI animals as soon as possible after being identified, but in any event before the start of the breeding season. PI animals are a significant source of infection, posing a particular threat to pregnant stock with the risk of further PI calves being born the following season. . Failure to do so may result in additional tissue tag testing being required and increase the overall costs and duration of the national eradication programme. In addition, PI animals are likely to fail to thrive and to die, even if apparently normal at birth.
  • Test animals that are to be introduced into the herd for BVD prior to purchase, if possible. Purchased stock (including pregnant cattle that may be carrying PI calves) and contacts at boundaries are the biggest risks for introducing infection that may in turn lead to the birth of further PI calves.. Where pre-purchase testing is not possible, cattle should be isolated post-purchase until tested negative. Note that pregnant non-PI cattle may carry a PI calf if they were exposed to BVD virus during early pregnancy (known as Trojan cattle). Isolate any purchased in-calf heifers or cows until they have calved and the calf has tested negative for BVD virus. Where possible, manage grazing of pregnant stock at home and on out-farms, away from boundaries to minimize contact with cattle from other herds.