Farmers need to be extremely vigilant to ensure that all animals imported into Ireland are disease-free, IFA president John Bryan has warned.
Based on analysis undertaken by the Department of Agriculture, the IFA understands that a high prevalence of bovine viral diarrhoea disease has been detected in some imported consignments.
John Bryan said: “Farmers are paying a very high price in terms of the damage to the high animal health status of the national livestock herd from imports. They have been left with no alternative other than to undertake costly eradication programmes to overcome the mistakes of the past.”
IFA has met with the Department of Agriculture on several occasions this year highlighting the risks associated with imports and the potential damage and costs involved for Ireland’s €24bn agricultural sector.
Irish farmers have been on high alert in recent months following the discovery of the midge-borne Schmallenberg virus on more than 150 English farms, according to the latest British figures. The disease causes diarrhoea, reduced milk yield in mature cattle as well as birth deformities in sheep, goats and cows.
So far, no cases of the virus have been found in Ireland. As a safety precaution, and given the evidence of bovine viral diarrhoea in imported cattle, the Department of Agriculture’s central veterinary research laboratory has carried out up to 50 tests to date, all of which have been found to be Schmallenberg-free.
In response to the prevalence of bovine viral diarrhoea in imported cattle, the IFA has urged farmers to be extremely careful in protecting the health status of their herds and not to purchase any animals of unknown origin.
Mr Bryan said livestock farmers throughout the country need to be very vigilant and aware of the importance of bio-security in terms of maintaining the health status of their herds.
Imported animals will not be allowed join the Bord Bia Quality Assurance scheme, and most beef factories have made it very clear they will not purchase imports because of the identification and traceability problems which are involved, added the IFA president.
A Department of Agriculture spokesperson stated: “As part of the ongoing monitoring of cattle and sheep imports in respect of Bluetongue virus, the Department, as part of a general health surveillance mechanism, has identified that a number of imported animals have tested positive for BVD virus”.
“... it is of particular relevance in the context of Ireland embarking on a national BVD eradication programme,” it added.
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