The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) have spoken of their delight at the “milestone” achieved by BVD eradication efforts, with over 900 farmers having recently received confirmation that their herd is at “low risk” to the disease.
The news was welcomed by UFU deputy president, David Brown, who described it as a “great achievement”.
“This is a great achievement. All these farmers are to be commended for the work they are doing to see this costly disease eliminated.” He stated.
Mr Brown said farms being BVD-free is a win-win situation from all angles, with a lower cost of production, increased feed conversion rates and many more benefits.
“Being BVD free helps to lower the cost of production, increase feed conversion, decrease the need for antimicrobials, and improve animal health and welfare. All wins for any farm business,” said Mr Brown.
Although there has been a reduction in BVD levels in recent weeks, the UFU deputy president has warned that further work needs to be done to get NI completely BVD-free.
“The single most crucial action farmers can take to eradicate this disease is to promptly identify and remove BVD positive animals from their herds.” said the Deputy president.
“These persistently infected (PI) animals continually shed the virus, putting healthy cows and neighbouring herds at risk,” he continued.
Despite a large number of farmers achieving low-risk status and reduced levels of the disease, Mr Brown warned that farmers cannot afford to become complacent.
“We must continue to source animals responsibly, follow good biosecurity protocols, and discuss vaccination options with vets.” He said.
“The number of low-risk herds is very encouraging and shows what can be achieved when everyone plays their part,” said the UFU deputy president.
What is BVD -
BVD or Bovine Viral Diarrhoea is a viral disease in cattle.
The disease can cause a variety of different signs and symptoms, such as reproductive and fertility problems, abortions and birth defects. Calves who survive the disease in early pregnancy stages, are usually permanently infected with the virus.
Once infected, most PI animals die before reaching 24-months old. This is usually due to mucosal disease or other sicknesses. The virus causes the immune system to weaken, making infected animals more susceptible to picking up other illnesses.
BVD can be controlled through vaccination, with modern vaccination programmes aimed at protecting dams from the disease, whilst also protecting against the production of PI’s. According to Animal Health Ireland, the disease is estimated to cost Irish farmers approximately €102m each year.