As the eradication of the BVD virus reaches its endgame farmers look set to be forced to test the remaining cohort of untested animals in the country.
Animal Health Ireland (AHI) has said that the status of almost all animals in the 83,000 breeding herds in Ireland is now known, with the main exception being a decreasing number of animals born before the start of the compulsory programme in 2013 that have neither been tested nor produced a calf.
At the end of March, AHI said the number of these animals was approximately 3,200, representing 0.05pc of the entire breeding herd population.
The majority of these animals are males in beef herds.
The AHI said it anticipates that from April 31, there will be a legal requirement to test pre-2013-born animals that do not already have a known status.
It has advised that farmers get these animals tested in the coming months to ensure herds qualify for negative herd status (NHS).
By the end of March, around 93pc of herds had acquired NHS, with a further 5,100 only being ineligible due to the presence of a small number of untested animals.
Huge progress has been made towards the eradication of the virus from Irish farms.
There has been a decrease in BVD prevalence of more than 30-fold since the start of the compulsory phase of the programme in 2013, when 0.66pc of calves born were identified with the virus (PI).
The prevalence of PI births in 2020 continues to decline, with only 0.02pc of calves tested in the first three months of the year being found to be infected with BVD as compared to 0.03pc in the same period of 2019.
ICSA animal health and welfare chair Hugh Farrell said the time is now right to bring compulsory BVD testing to an end. He said the rate of 0.77pc in 2013 equated to 16,194 PI births while the current rate of 0.02pc equates to just 307, or two out of every 10,000 births.
"These figures illustrate that mandatory testing should no longer be a requirement," he said.