Farm Ireland

Wednesday 13 December 2017

BVD scheme deserves credit despite issues

The birth of the BVD eradication programme is encountering some last-minute complications.

Both the vets and the ICMSA feel that launching the scheme without making it illegal for a farmer to sell a BVD infected animal to another farmer is half baked. Not only this, but they also believe that it gives a carte blanche to unscrupulous types that will see the first voluntary year of the scheme as a window of opportunity to off-load infected animals before either the awareness or the laws governing such a move catch up.

The gravity of such carry on cannot be over-stated. BVD is already endemic in many herds throughout the country and estimated to be costing Irish farmers €100m a year. The farming community paid too high a price for what went on with Foot and Mouth, TB and Brucellosis to put up with any tolerance for messing around with BVD.

The strides that Animal Health Ireland (AHI) has made on this issue deserve to be applauded. Proof of that is the fact that the organisation is being contacted by several countries around the world, from Northern Ireland to New Zealand, to learn from how it has progressed to this point.

Even the head of the European dairy giant Friesland Campina has been in touch with Mike Magan, the determined AHI chairman, to find out how it should be done.


But as with everything in life, the practicalities of rolling out a BVD eradication programme and keeping everybody on side are less straight forward.

It is true that the existing guidelines for the eradication programme state that animals that test positive for BVD should not be sold on to other farmers. It is also true that unscrupulous farmers will be able to by-pass any obligation to declare that an animal is infected by getting them tested outside the system altogether.

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In addition, our labs are not fully accredited for BVD testing yet, which could jeopardise approval from the EU for a compulsory scheme. And, while the scheme is in its voluntary phase at least, mart managers will be anxious about who is actually liable for an animal bought through the mart that subsequently tests positive for BVD.

The bottom line is that we've come too far and there is too much at stake for all the parties in AHI not to knock heads together to figure out a sensible solution.

Every year, delay cost Irish farmers another €100m.

Hopefully political posturing in attempts to maximise compensation or votes will not compromise what is one of the best initiatives in Irish agriculture at the moment.

Indo Farming