New, unannounced inspections to check that Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) positive animals are being isolated are set to begin in Northern Ireland over the next few weeks.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) announced herds which retain a BVD-positive animal will be visited by DAERA inspectors to confirm compliance with the 2016 BVD Order.

The order requires isolation "within housing to prevent direct or indirect contact with other susceptible animals".

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.

A DAERA spokesperson said: “Herd keepers are initially informed of the requirement to isolate BVD-positives by Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland (AHWNI) when test results are reported.

"The department will now be issuing an isolation warning letter if the animal is still in the herd for a significant period after the positive test date. This will be followed up by an isolation inspection visit if the animal remains in the herd."

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 has fallen from 11.46% to 4.27%, demonstrating a 62% decrease in the proportion of herds affected by the disease.

Welcoming the announcement, Dr. Sam Strain, chief executive AHWNI which facilitates the eradication programme, said: “We know that infected animals present a very high risk of further infection to the rest of their herd, to neighbouring herds and to herds purchasing pregnant stock from BVD infected farms.

Industry stakeholders in the NI BVD Programme are keen to see an acceleration of progress towards eradication and have asked for enforcement measures to be implemented.

"These actions by DAERA should help to reinforce the veterinary advice that farmers who own BVD positive cattle must urgently take steps to deal with the virus in their herds and cull persistently-infected cattle promptly.”