Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 26 May 2017

BVD virus costing Irish farmers more than €100m

Animal Health Ireland outline plans to eradicate disease with six-year scheme

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The BVD virus is costing Irish farmers almost €2m a week, or €102m annually, a major new study has found.

The shock findings put the dairy sector's share of the losses at €55m annually.

Suckler farmers lose €27m each year due to the disease, while beef finishers are out of pocket to the tune of €20m.

This is equivalent to €48/yr for every dairy cow and €30/yr for every suckler cow.

The study was commissioned by Animal Health Ireland (AHI) and was carried out by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC).

However, in a move which has been welcomed by the livestock industry, AHI has outlined details of a six-year eradication programme for the costly disease.

The SAC study was based on data on the Irish national herd and commodity costs drawn mainly from the CSO and the national farm accountancy survey.

testing

The study's findings were presented at an animal health economics workshop at Teagasc, Ashtown, Dublin last week, where the details of a new six-year BVD eradication programme were also outlined by AHI.

The ambitious programme includes three years of tissue tag testing.

A further three years of surveillance and monitoring based around bulk milk tank testing or targeted blood sampling complete the programme.

Herds with negative tissue tag test results would require minimal further sampling at the end of the three-year intensive sampling period.

Those herds with positive tests, however, would require additional testing to identify and remove any further persistently infected (PI) cattle.

AHI suggested that the programme would be voluntary in 2012, and that a national compulsory programme would be introduced in 2013.

It is hoped that up to 50pc of the calves born in 2012 would be tissue tested and any possible glitches in the testing programme could be ironed out before compulsory testing was introduced.

The cost of the six-year programme was put at €49m, with testing of the dairy herd estimated at €21m and the suckler herd at €29m.

However, AHI sources maintained that significant savings would be possible should tissue sampling tags become mandatory.

David Graham, programme manager with AHI, claimed the study showed that the benefits of BVD eradication would be well worth the cost of the programme.

"The benefit to cost ratio in the dairy sector was at least 14:1, while in the suckler sector it was at least five to one," Mr Graham said.

"When analysed in terms of payback period it was found that the total costs of the programme in the suckler sector would be recouped by savings of just over one year's losses.

"The costs in the dairy sector would be recouped in around six months," he added.

AHI boss Joe O'Flaherty said the successful delivery of the programme would require all sectors of the industry to work together.

He said the study clearly showed the "significant net benefit" associated with the proposed short-term, intensive, eradication programme for BVD.

Meanwhile, the IFA has insisted that any eradication programme must be cost effective, logistically practical and involve minimum disruption to normal trade.

economy

John Waters, of the IFA animal health project team, said usage of the national ID tag would be the most cost effective method of sampling animals for farmers.

He therefore welcomed the decision to use this methodology in the national programme.

In order to attain economy of scale for the laboratory testing of tissue samples, one lab should be identified and accredited, Mr Waters said.

"Otherwise, farmers would not benefit from a reduction in testing costs," he said.

The IFA man said that the disproportionate level of cost involved for suckler farmers in eradicating BVD had to be addressed in the national programme.

"[The] IFA has made detailed submissions to Animal Health Ireland in this regard and will be meeting with the Minister for Agriculture [Simon Coveney] to put these proposals to him," he added.

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