Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

IBR restrictions pose new threat to live shipping trade

New restrictions could prevent live-shipping of Irish stock
New restrictions could prevent live-shipping of Irish stock
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

A national programme to eradicate IBR is in the pipeline following new disease restrictions on the Continent that could prevent the live-shipping of Irish stock.

Belgium is the latest EU country to opt for Article 9 status, which bans the import or movement of animals from countries that do not have IBR control programmes in place.

While Belgium was an outlet for 22,000 Irish calves last year, it is the possibility that France will follow with a similar ban in the coming months that poses the most serious threat to Ireland's €180m live export trade.

"We're assuming that France will get this," said Animal Health Ireland's deputy CEO, David Graham.

"There's a raft of activity within Brussels on this issue, but we have no intelligence yet on what each country is planning to do," he said.

It is estimated that up to 80pc of herds in Ireland have IBR (Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis), which is often present at a sub-clinical level in herds.

Symptoms for the virus include runny noses and secondary pneumonia infections.

Unofficial estimates suggest that the disease is costing Irish farmers tens of millions annually in reduced output, as well as compromising the genetic gain in the cattle herd and the sales opportunities for Irish AI companies.

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"No bull that tests positive for IBR antibodies is allowed to be used for semen sales," said Munster AI's Doreen Corridan.

However, Ms Corridan has seen a big reduction in the number of bulls testing positive for the disease in the last two years. She puts this down to the fact that the AI companies are buying sires at such a young age, and the increase in the number of farmers vaccinating their herds.

"Any farmer with a high herd EBI is vaccinating now because they want to guarantee that their stock will pass all the tests," she said.

"But the problem is getting farmers to use and store the vaccinations correctly - I'd say that 50pc of vaccinations are not administered correctly here," she said.

The first part of a national IBR eradication programme was the sanctioning by the Department of Agriculture of a €40,000 12-month cost-benefit study by Teagasc's economics unit.

This will then feed into the research already carried out by Animal Health Ireland's technical working group.

"IBR will take a minimum of 10 years to eradicate through vaccination and testing. It won't be a culling process similar to the current BVD programme," explained Mr Graham.

The vaccine costs €3-5 per animal.

Belgium is just one of nine EU countries that are already either IBR free or in the process of eradicating the disease. The others include Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and large parts of Italy. Combined, these countries accounted for nearly half of all our 237,000 head exported last year.

These are all channelled through the French port of Cherbourg, along with one third of the 22,000 head exported to north Africa, which uses France as a land-bridge, according to Bord Bia's Joe Burke.

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