The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has called for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to fully cover the cost of bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) testing from next year.

Ireland is aiming to secure a status of being free of BVD by January 1, 2023.

In order to achieve this, the government has recently submitted an application for approval to the European Commission for its current BVD Eradication Programme.

The IFA said that testing and surveillance, which is needed to prove ongoing free status from 2023, must be paid for, in full, by DAFM.

It claimed that this is consistent with the department’s policy of cost and responsibility sharing in disease control.

“It is now time for the department to make their contribution towards testing in this programme,” IFA Animal Health Committee chair TJ Maher said.

Maher claimed that farmers have invested over €100 million in the BVD eradication programme since it began in 2012. The programme became compulsory for farmers during the following year.

He said that the actions of suckler and dairy farmers and their investments in the BVD programme have achieved this significant milestone.

However, he noted that targets have to be met by the end of this year, which the programme is very much on track to achieve.

“There will then be an acceptance process from the EU’s perspective which will likely run to a number of months before official free status is granted,” Maher added.

BVD testing

The IFA Animal Health chair said that the substantive issue is the type of testing programme that will apply in 2023 in the first instance.

“It’s likely the majority of calves will be born before free status is granted, if the targets are met by the end of this year,” Maher said.

He said that there is also the issue of vaccination being prohibited and only allowed in exceptional circumstances when free status is granted.

The IFA has contacted Animal Health Ireland (AHI) about what it believes the next steps in this process must be.

Maher said that farmers will have to see the benefits of reaching BVD targets.

“The BVD programme, and in particular the conclusion of the programme, will be the benchmark with which AHI’s credibility will be measured by farmers,” he commented.

The IFA said that the testing approach must provide a high level of early case detection to protect the status achieved by farmers.

“Where cases are found and controls imposed on farmers to avoid any further spread these farmers must be supported in full for the cost and impact of these controls,” Maher said.