The net benefit to farmers of the reduction in BVD prevalence in 2017 alone is estimated to be €75 million, according to Animal Health Ireland (AHI).

Significant progress has been made this year towards the eradication of the BVD virus in Ireland, with the national programme on track to eradicate the virus by 2020 if current progress continues, AHI added.

In an update published today (Tuesday, December 12), AHI outlined that the prevalence of persistently infected (PI) calves so far this year is 0.1%. This is compared to 0.16% in 2016 and 0.66% in 2013 – which was the first year of the national programme.

At a herd level, only 1.97% of approximately 83,000 breeding herds have had a positive result this year (compared to an initial prevalence of 11.3% of herds in 2013).

Over 2017, AHI has seen an increase in the speed with which PI calves have been removed following their identification.

It has attributed this increased speed to the introduction of enhanced programme measures by the BVD Implementation Group (BVDIG), particularly the higher support payments for removal of PIs within three weeks of the date of the initial positive result and the restricting of herds that retain PIs for more than five weeks and notification of neighbouring herds to review their biosecurity.

At the end of November this year, there were only 95 PIs alive nationally – this compared to 337 at the same point last year, according to AHI.

Some counties – including Carlow, Dublin, Louth and Sligo – have no PIs alive currently and a number of other counties have only a single PI alive, it added.

Progress to date

As the end of the fifth year of the compulsory BVD Eradication Programme is approached, it is important to reflect on the progress made to date, AHI’s CEO and chairman of the BVDIG, Dr. David Graham, said.

We have seen further advances this year and believe that if this continues, we are on track to meet our target for the eradication of BVD by 2020.

However, Dr. Graham stressed that “we must remain vigilant and not become complacent, with the swift identification and removal of PI animals being key to achieving our target”.

Negative Herd Status

Dr. Graham also took the opportunity to remind farmers of the benefits of obtaining and protecting Negative Herd Status (NHS); currently 71,000 herds have obtained NHS.

By identifying and testing any animals of unknown status, farmers can obtain NHS and access lower-cost testing.

He also noted that appropriate biosecurity measures should be put in place to minimise the risk of accidental introduction of infection to these herds through movement of animals, people or equipment, or across boundaries.