Farm Ireland

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Clear-out needed of PI calves

Pat McCormack of the ICMSA
Pat McCormack of the ICMSA

An animal health expert has warned the country is being held to "ransom" by around 600 herds retaining cattle persistently infected (PI) with BVD virus.

Riona Sayers, a dairy herd health researcher with Teagasc, said farmers should be made aware if there are PI animals being held on a next door farm.

Dr Sayers said experts have been calling for those in the vicinity of a farm with infected animals to be informed.

"While PIs remain we have sort of generated a nightmare scenario now where we are generating naive herds and also retaining a source of the virus through retained PIs," said Dr Sayers who was speaking at the Yara Irish Grassland Association dairy conference.

"I can't understand why there hasn't just been a clear-out of retained animals at this point in time.

"For over 900 young animals to hold the country to ransom for one particular disease where we've got 5.5 million to 6 million cattle - it is crazy."

The latest figures from Animal Health Ireland from December last show there were over 4,600 identified as positive herds. There were over 2.1 million calves tested last year, with only 0.33pc testing positive.

Dr Sayers said a portion of those testing positive are calves that have just not worked out of the system from 2015 yet.

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The Department of Agriculture had stated it was moving to 'name and shame' by sending letters to the neighbours of farmers holding on to PI calves, however, this appears to have stalled.

The ICMSA's Pat McCormack said the lack of movement on the issuing of the letters was leaving farmers confused.

"Compliant farmers are being left irritated, with their herds unknowingly vulnerable, and having to bear the cost of the testing regime that had to be extended precisely because some farmers were, and are retaining PI animals," Mr McCormack said.

"This can't be sidelined in 2016, it is an essential and integral part of the BVD eradication programme and was agreed upon." There has been a fall-off in farmers retaining PI calves.

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