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Farming bodies reticent on funding disease plan

THE main farm bodies have refused to back any eradication programmes for BVD and IBR which would be farmer funded.

Following last week's disease outbreak at the National Cattle Breeding Centre in Enfield, Co Kildare, there have been renewed calls for compulsory eradication schemes to tackle the spread of IBR and BVD.

However, both the IFA and ICMSA said the cost of any eradication schemes could not be carried by farmers.

A statement from the IFA said farmers would not support a programme that added unnecessary cost to the day-to-day management of their farms.

"The Department of Agriculture will also have to play a key supporting role if a BVD eradication programme is to work," the IFA insisted.

The ICMSA said any eradication programmes for IBR and BVD should be Government funded in the same way as is the case with brucellosis and TB.

The farmer group added that the Government was "duty-bound" to financially support any such eradication schemes.

The ICSA said that it believed a compulsory BVD programme would distort the market. "If the programme is voluntary it ensures that costs are lower, provided that there is a critical mass participating," a spokesman said.

Animal health experts estimate that BVD alone is costing Irish farmers more than €35m a year in compromised production levels and vaccination programmes.

The live-exports sector has also been compromised by the disease. Exports to countries such as Russia, Algeria and Morocco were being hamstrung by our poor IBR and BVD status, according to Bord Bia's beef specialist, Joe Burke.


Up to half of all the calves being bought by calf exporters were showing evidence of exposure to BVD, explained Carlow-based live shipper Adam Buitelaar. A third were testing positive for IBR, he added.

Other shippers, who declined to be named, said that up to 20pc of their suckler weanlings were testing positive for either of the two diseases.

"A lot of buyers on the continent simply will not buy Irish stock because of the levels of infection," said one shipper who was worried that Spanish and Italian markets were going to get more particular as they pushed on with their own disease eradication programmes.

Animal Health Ireland (AHI) representatives maintained that BVD could be eradicated here in less than three years. The cost of this programme could be up to €15m per year.

After completion of a three-year eradication programme, Irish farmers would save €35m a year through increased productivity and the elimination of the necessity to vaccinate, said AHI's David Graham.

"This has already been achieved in countries such as Denmark," he said. "Provided strict biosecurity protocols were adopted, we should be able to remain BVD free without the need for vaccinations."

It currently costs €5 per head for farmers to test their animals for BVD. It is believed this could drop to less than €4 a head if a national programme was rolled out. AHI estimates that up to 35,000 animals would be culled out of the national herd to eliminate the disease.

Indo Farming