Ireland needs to close off all weaknesses in its BVD eradication programme as soon as possible so that the need for compulsory testing of millions of calves is removed, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Making the calls, ICSA animal health and welfare chairman Hugh Farrell said: “The ICSA wants to see the job of testing all pre-2013 livestock finalised as quickly as possible – and, most importantly, we want all imported livestock to be BVD tested in advance.”

Farrell made his comments following the announcement from the Department of Agriculture this week that makes compulsory the BVD testing of animals born prior to January 2013.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and it makes no sense to allow farmers to import stock, most of which are breeding stock, with unknown BVD status.

“The current arrangement where farmers are strongly advised to test imports is not enough because it is too late when the stock are already in place.

”It is clear that this could undo a lot of the hard miles that farmers have undertaken under the BVD programme.

“It makes no sense that we have no end date in sight for compulsory testing of all calves in herds that have not had any BVD positives for year – while we allow importation of stock where we do not know what their status is.”

Farrell has also once again called for a proper compensation payment for persistently infected (PI) calves.

“I have always said that we cannot resolve BVD if we do not help farmers who are unfortunate enough to have the disease. Eradication of disease needs solidarity at national level,” the chairman asserted.

“This lesson has never been more clear than now. Ireland needs to be BVD free, but the key final elements are full compensation to ensure full clear-out of PI calves and full testing of imports, along with finalising the pre-2013 animals,” Farrell concluded.