In this article, UFU president, David Brown, expresses concerns over Northern Ireland’s lack of progress in eradicating BVD.
We are calling out the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) after years of not implementing a full suite of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) legislative measures.
These include measures that have supported the Republic of Ireland (ROI) in gaining recent approval for its BVD eradication programme.
The outcome has brought about immediate trade implications for Northern Ireland producers moving cattle over the border for breeding and production as they must meet new requirements (BVD) – all of which we could have avoided.
The ROI is expected to achieve formal BVD freedom status in 2023. However, restrictions on the movement of NI animals have come into effect immediately.
It is utterly frustrating that we could have been in the same position had DAERA taken heed of our advice.
With the full support of our members, we have lobbied constantly since 2017 to get a full suite of legislative measures in place like that the ROI deployed to follow their successful blueprint.
These would have included:
- Herd restrictions, which could have had a dramatic impact by driving down positive numbers years ago;
- Neighbour notifications for herds not removing positive animals on time.
Yet, despite our continual pressure over the years, DAERA has failed to deliver on these asks. This lack of action has landed us in this damaging situation today.
Over the last decade, strong gains have been made, but these must be attributed to industry-led BVD measures. The UFU is working as a key stakeholder to ensure their implementation.
Beyond calling for a compensation scheme to remove persistently infected (PI) calves, measures included:
- A slaughter ban on positive and untested cattle;
- BVD non-conformances within the Farm Quality Assured Scheme.
However, this work is now being undermined as NI has fallen significantly behind ROI in eradicating the disease.
Complex trade implications will come into play because of DAERA’s reluctance to act appropriately.
The requirements of the Export Health Certificate (EHC) to export to any state free from BVD is a guaranteed barrier to trade.
DAERA are now having to commit resources towards trying to ensure NI’s farmers can continue to trade with ROI by training private vets in certifying that the detailed requirements of EHCs have been met.
While this is now unfortunately needed, we could have avoided it with the proactive implementation of our considered and requested measures.
In saying that, it is essential that officials act with urgency to solve this issue in the manner that should have been applied long ago, instead of telling producers that they must meet new requirements.
Commitment has been given to deliver revised legislation to make sure any herd retaining a PI is restricted. However, DAERA has not promised any further measures at this point.
Years of progress on BVD eradication have been wasted, and the problem lies solely with their veterinary department.