The Ulster Farmers’ Union says Northern Ireland’s farming industry has achieved a “significant milestone” in its BVD eradication efforts.

It comes as around 900 farmers have received confirmation their herd is at ‘low risk’ for the disease.

UFU deputy president, David Brown, said: “This is a great achievement. All these farmers are to be commended for the work they are doing to see this costly disease eliminated.”

Achieving low-risk status

Herds are deemed low risk for bovine viral diarrhoea when all cattle in the herd over five weeks-of-age have a BVD negative status, the herd has been in the eradication programme for more than three years, and no BVD positive animals have been identified within the head in the last 12 months.

Achieving lower risk status has many benefits for a farm business.

“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 Brown.

There has been a reduction in BVD levels in recent months. However, Brown said there is still work to be done if Northern Ireland is to be 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.

“These persistently infected (PI) animals continually shed the virus, putting healthy cows and neighbouring herds at risk,” he said.

Despite a large number of farmers achieving low-risk status and reduced levels of the disease, farmers cannot afford to become complacent.

“We must continue to source animals responsibly, follow good biosecurity protocols, and discuss vaccination options with vets.

“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.