Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 10 December 2016

Farmers must help to pay bill for killing BVD

Declan O'Brien

Published 19/07/2011 | 05:00

The findings of the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) study into the cost of the BVD virus to the Irish livestock sector makes for fairly stark reading.

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The overall cost is put at €102m, while the losses to each sector are also extremely severe.

According to the authors, BVD costs dairy farmers €55m each year, suckler farmers €27m and beef finishers €20m.

The losses are significant for all three enterprises, but particularly so for suckler farmers and beef finishers, who are continually struggling to make a return from what are essentially low-margin businesses.

The study, which was commissioned by Animal Health Ireland (AHI), confirmed what many in the industry had been saying for some time.

The good news from the farmers' point of view is that there is a plan and concrete proposals for an eradication programme.

The plan is due to kick off next year on a voluntary basis and moves to a compulsory scheme in 2013.

The programme is scheduled to take six years, with three years given over to the testing of tissue tag samples from calves, and the remaining three years taken up by surveillance and further testing where required.

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However, the AHI maintains that the back could be broken on the programme within the first two years and that the final years of testing would be confined to isolated outbreaks or hot spots of the disease.

The payback time for the eradication programme is short and the benefits to the industry are obviously substantial and ongoing.

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

Should the current national tag tender, which is currently under review by the Department of Agriculture, specify the requirement for a tissue tag, then the cost of the eradication scheme could be further reduced.

The cost of the programme is obviously a key concern for farm organisations since it is likely to fall on farmers.

The never ending testing regime for brucellosis and TB has left farmers suspicious of disease eradication schemes.

However, the AHI claims the cost benefits of this programme have been clearly established.

The return over costs in the dairy sector has been estimated at least 14 to one, while those for the suckler sector is at least five to one.

With returns of that order, there is a fair argument for saying that since the benefits of eradicating BVD will be reaped by farmers, then they should in some way help to foot the bill.

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