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Northern Ireland to Introduce Compulsory BVD Testing

01 December 2015

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle O’Neill has announced that she will bring legislation to make testing for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) virus in new-born calves, including stillbirths and abortions, compulsory.

The Minister said: "My officials will bring forward draft legislation for consideration by the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development on 8 December 2015 with a view to it coming into operation on 1 March 2016.

"The interval between announcing my decision now and the commencement date of the legislation will not only allow industry body Animal Health and Welfare NI (AWHNI) time to make any necessary operational arrangements but will also provide herd keepers some time to use up any stock of any standard cattle identification tags they have acquired, prior to purchasing the new BVD tissue sample enabled tags."

Ms O’Neill said aims of the legislation are consistent with the commitments given in Going for Growth and that there would be considerable disease control benefits.

She went on to say: "As part of the Going for Growth strategy, we are committed to working with stakeholders to develop industry-led initiatives to tackle production diseases which have a significant economic impact at farm level such as BVD; as part of an overall herd health programme.

"We have good reason to believe that through the application of this legislation, we will be taking an important step towards eradicating BVD from the herd in the north. That would certainly be a considerable achievement and will bring BVD compulsory testing here in line with the rest of Ireland."

Ms O’Neill recognised that while the additional costs to each herd keeper would be relatively low, the overall industry contribution over a three-year period would be over £5 million. Putting this into context, however, the estimated financial gains made by herd keepers in eradicating BVD would outweigh these costs by a ratio of 10 to 1.

Ms O’Neill concluded: "I view this as the beginning of a new era in partnership-working between my Department and industry. For the first time AWHNI will lead in the implementation of the legislation relating to a production disease. While production diseases are the responsibility of the herd keeper and industry to resolve, appropriate support can be provided by government when it makes economic sense to do so."

Responding to the announcement, Sean Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: “Vets and farmers have been well engaged with the process so far and keen to see it progress; the announcement for a compulsory BVD testing scheme was made more than two years ago so we are very pleased to hear this next step in its continued progress towards legislation.”

Simon Doherty, President of BVA Northern Ireland Branch, said: “With about half of Northern Ireland farmers involved, the uptake under the voluntary BVD testing scheme has been really promising. So it’s most welcome that Minister O’Neill has committed to the necessary introduction of compulsory testing, as part of the joined-up Government, profession and industry approach that is crucial for the delivery of a successful BVD eradication programme in Northern Ireland.”

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