Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Vets and ICMSA look to pull out of BVD scheme

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The national BVD eradication scheme has hit a crisis point with both the ICMSA and the vet grouping behind the initiative threatening to pull out just before it begins.

In a statement issued yesterday, Veterinary Ireland warned that the disease eradication plan could actually encourage the spread of BVD.

"We are fearful that failure to prohibit the sale of animals which test positive [for BVD] will lead to an increase in the spread of this disease," it said.

"We're particularly anxious about the more naive farmers, who may believe that they are buying a BVD-free animal, especially if it has a tissue tag in its ear," said Veterinary Ireland food animal group chairman Donal Lynch.

"Without compulsory declarations of infected animals, the tag is meaningless and we are really putting the whole programme back by a year."

The ICMSA said that it could not be party to a scheme that didn't make the sale of persistently infected (PI) animals illegal.

"A statutory instrument to make this obligatory could be drafted within a number of days," said the ICMSA's general secretary, Ciaran Dolan.

However, both the IFA and the ICSA were reluctant to support a change to the scheme that would force farmers to identify infected animals.

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"While the voluntary programme is not ideal, it is a significant step forward," said the IFA's animal health chairman, John Waters, who highlighted that the scheme's guidelines already include the non-sale of PI animals.

While the ICSA agreed that farmers should be obliged to declare if an animal was infected with BVD, it claimed it wouldn't be a practical measure during the first year when the aim was to encourage the maximum number of farmers to volunteer for the scheme.

"You can't force a farmer who has volunteered for the scheme to declare that some of his animals are positive, while his neighbour can continue selling equally infected animals without any declaration just because he hasn't also entered into the scheme," said ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch.

Mike Magan, chairman of Animal Health Ireland, said that the vets' opinions deserved to be heard.

"Veterinary Ireland have given a lot to the development of this scheme even though they will actually end up with less work if it is successful," he said.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the IFA has been lobbying the Government for a €200 subsidy for suckler calves removed as PIs under the scheme, along with all knackery costs for disposing of PI animals.

The IFA estimate the average cost per calf will be €6 or €103m a year.

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