An Introduction to the Northern Ireland BVD Eradication Programme 25/04/2013

Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Virus (BVDV) is one of the most economically important viral diseases of cattle in Northern Ireland, causing losses due to a range of reproductive problems, weakened immunity leading to scours and pneumonias and deaths. Surveys of Northern Irish dairy and suckler herds found evidence of exposure to the virus in almost 100% of cases. The compulsory phase of a BVD eradication programme began this year in the Republic of Ireland (RoI) and a programme is also underway in Scotland, with all breeding herds required to conduct initial screening by February 2013. The annual losses due to BVD to farmers in RoI, where the national herd is around four times the size of that in NI, have been estimated at 102M euro. In contrast, the same study estimated the total cost to farmers of the anticipated six year eradication programme is €54m, giving a clear cost benefit (over €10 saved for each euro spent).

Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI) is a recently formed body, funded by industry and supported by DARD, and overseen by a board with representatives from the dairy and beef breed societies, the dairy and beef processors and the farm and veterinary organisations. AHWNI have prioritized BVD as the first disease that it will seek to address. This is in recognition of the ongoing costs and welfare implications of the disease to Northern Irish farmers, the threat to export markets from programmes elsewhere and the marketing benefits of having eradicated the disease.

AHWNI have established a broader cross-industry BVD Implementation Group (BVDIG) to develop and roll out a BVD eradication programme. BVDIG have chosen to implement a programme which closely mirrors that in place in RoI, with the main screening being done on tissue sample tags collected during routine tagging of calves. This programme is available on a voluntary basis in 2013, and over the next weeks AHWNI, on behalf of the BVDIG, will provide key information and messages on the programme through a series of weekly articles. For further information contact 028 8778 9126 or your own veterinary practice.