The number of older cattle in Northern Ireland that do not have a BVD status has halved in the space of just a year.

The latest figures from Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHW NI), the organisation behind the region's BVD Eradication Programme showed the number of older cattle without a BVD status has fallen to below 6,000. It's down from just under 12,000 one year ago and 35,000 two years ago.

It represents significant progress in the establishment of BVD statuses in cattle that were born before March 1, 2016, the starting date of the compulsory BVD Programme.

Bovine viral diarrhoea (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.

At the start of May, over 15,500 herds had a BVD status for every bovine animal in their herd, representing 70% of NI herds.

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.

Restricted animals

Of the cattle born in the region after the start of the compulsory programme, almost 15,000 are restricted from moving to markets or other farms due to a ‘BVD Unknown’ status and herd owners are encouraged to test these cattle as soon as possible, to find out their BVD status.

These cattle cannot be accepted at a market and should not be sold directly to other farms as they are restricted on APHIS until a negative test result has been returned from an approved laboratory.

Herd owners can check the BVD profile of their herd on their APHIS herd list, as BVD statuses are displayed against individual animals; testing should be carried out using a supplementary tag or a blood sample taken by a private vet.

Importing animals

Work has also been done to allow AHWNI to carry out checks on cattle imported from the Republic of Ireland that have a BVD Unknown status, using the Republic's BVD status data from ICBF, to find out whether a negative BVD status can be uploaded to APHIS for these animals without the need for further testing.

To comply with the NI BVD Programme, cattle born in England, Scotland or Wales that are being imported to NI must be tested for virus antigen by an approved laboratory, either before arrival in NI or within 20 days of arrival.

Herd owners must arrange and pay for the testing, which is also required to be carried out before the cattle are moved from the destination herd in NI.

As DAERA rules mean that all cattle moving from GB to NI for breeding and production purposes need to be re-tagged by the receiving NI keeper, it is recommended that BVD sample tags are used in cases where the animal does not have a valid BVD test result for the NI Programme.