The number of individual Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) cases in Northern Ireland has fallen by 25% in less than two years, according to the latest figures by Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI).

Over the same period, the number of herds affected by the production disease also fell by more than a third since March 2016.

However, current figures suggest that 40% of BVD positive animals are still not culled within five weeks of getting a positive result despite a drive by the industry to eradicate the disease.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says farmers are to be commended for their efforts to reduce BVD in herds across Northern Ireland.

UFU deputy president, David Brown said: “The majority of farmers are taking action against BVD. While there has been a significant reduction in the levels of this costly disease, we must not become complacent. There is still work to be done if we are to successfully eradicate it.”

Brown added that the delay in culling is a concern and likely to slow eradication plans.

“By not culling these animals immediately farmers risk spreading the disease to healthy cattle in their own herd and neighbouring herds,” he said.

These persistently infected (PI) animals shed enormous amounts of the BVD virus. Identification and prompt removal is the key to disease control and eradication.

Benefits of eradication

The UFU said there are major benefits to be gained from the eradication of BVD, such as lower production costs, increased feed conversion, decreased need for antimicrobials, and improved animal health and welfare.

“As the level of virus in the country continues to decrease, it becomes increasingly important that farmers test their animals, remove infected ones immediately, and follow good biosecurity protocols, such as scrutiny and isolation of bought in animals. Farmers may also want to consider vaccination to protect healthy stock,” Brown added.

“There is a collective push to see the introduction of new legislation that would discourage the retention of PI cattle.

“This is in addition to NIMEA processing plants no longer accepting BVD positive animals for slaughter. Everyone wants to see this disease eradicated.”