Maps showing the extent of Northern Ireland's battle with Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) have been published in a bid to encourage farmers to take action.

The maps, which show the general location of infected cattle at the start of June 2021, illustrate that, while BVD outbreaks are present across all counties, there are areas where the presence of greater numbers of BVD Positive cattle could put local herds at a higher risk of acquiring the virus.

BVD costs NI up to £30 million a year

BVD is a highly contagious viral disease of cattle that can be transmitted as easily as the common cold.

Current estimates put the cost to Northern Ireland at between £25 million and £30 million a year.

In working to eradicate BVD, the industry aims to have all cattle with a direct Negative or indirect Negative (as a result of having a BVD Negative calf) status.

The primary reason for testing cattle for BVD is to identify those that are positive or inconclusive, so that action can be taken to eliminate any reservoir of this damaging virus, thus reducing the risks presented to the herd.

The number of BVD Positives alive on NI farms has risen by over 50% since January 2021, while the retention rate of Positives has fallen by approximately 20% (at five weeks following disclosure of the initial positive result).

The maps show more cases were detected close to where positive animals are retained.

Recent statistics also show that Counties Armagh and Fermanagh have been particularly badly affected.

Over the last 1 2 months, Armagh DVO had the highest level of initial positive or inconclusive results, seen in 0.57% of the animals tested, with the next highest being Enniskillen DVO at 0.44%, compared to the NI average of 0.33%.

Image source: AHWNI

Map 1 displays the distribution of living BVD Positives on June 1, 2021, and Map 2 identifies general locations where BVD Positive cattle have been retained for more than five weeks since the disclosure of the results.

In some areas, the higher densities of BVD Positives are because some farms have had multiple Positives disclosed on testing.

Image source: AHWNI

A key aim of the BVD Programme is to drive down the length of time for which BVD Positive animals are kept on-farm, as it is recognised that delays in removing Positives lead to not only a greater chance of the same farm having more Positives during the following season, but also a greater chance of neighbouring herds becoming infected.

Veterinary advice is to dispatch Persistently Infected cattle as soon as possible so that BVD can be eliminated from the NI cattle population.

The BVD Implementation Group has been asking DAERA to bring in new legislation that would allow information on BVD breakdowns to be shared with at-risk herd keepers, to encourage the application
of targeted biosecurity measures that will help to reduce the risk of the BVD virus entering their herds