The ICBF database shows that 82% of the 14,000 PI calves born in 2013 and 55% of the 7,000 born in 2014 are now dead. However this leaves some 5,670 PI animals in herds across the country. Some 70% of herds that have retained PIs (the majority of which are suckler herds) have only a single PI, with 95% having retained four or less.
Retained PIs represent a significant and ongoing source of infection for other animals in both, their own and neighbouring herds, according to Animal Health Ireland (AHI). Given that the breeding season is now well underway on most farms, and that calves are born PI as a result of their dams being infected in the first four months of pregnancy, it is vital that remaining PIs are removed as quickly as possible, it says. Failure to do so will result in the creation of further PI calves to be born in 2015 and poses a threat to the timely eradication of BVD, resulting in increased costs to all farmers.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) recently announced a revised compensation package to encourage removal of PI calves. A payment of €120 is now available for the first and subsequent beef breed calf and €75 for the second and subsequent dairy heifer. PI calves born before 15th June 2014 must have a date of death recorded on the Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system no later than 1st August 2014, while PI calves born after that date must have a date of death recorded within seven weeks of the initial test. Any PI cattle retained from 2012 or 2013 must also be removed.
A large proportion of beef herds that are retaining PI calves have also enrolled in the Beef Genomic scheme (BGS). Farmers in this scheme should be aware that the removal of PIs with the above timescales is necessary to be eligible for payments within the BGS.