BVD virus costs farmers an estimated €102m

The National Compulsory BVD Eradication Programme requires testing of all calves born from Jan 1, 2013, bans the sale of calves without a negative result, and provides for follow-up testing where PIs (persistently infected animals) are identified.

It also imposes new controls on imports.

What is BVD?

BVD virus is the cause of an important viral disease of cattle that is estimated to cost Irish farmers around €102m each year.

How is it spread?

Calves become persistently infected (PI) when their mother is exposed to the virus during the second to fourth month of pregnancy (or if the mother is PI).

PI cattle are the main source of infection within herds and means of spread between herds.

How can it be eradicated?

The key is to identify and remove PI cattle from the national herd.

This can be done cost-effectively by testing ear punch samples collected by you as part of the official identity tagging process.

How will the compulsory programme work?

It is based on testing ear punch samples for BVD virus, collected with tissue sample-enabled official calf identity tags. (A new tag applicator may be required).

As soon as possible, but not later than seven days after collection, you must send samples to the BVD testing laboratory of your choice.

Note that this requirement also applies to stillborn and aborted calves.

Most co-ops have put arrangements in place with individual labs to offer testing at competitive rates for their suppliers, with payment deducted centrally, so you don’t have to include a cheque. Or you can contact labs to ensure you get testing carried out at the best price.

Results should be back within seven working days.

Don’t sell any animal born after Jan 1 unless you have a negative BVD test result for it.

Where BVD virus-positive calves are detected, you will have the option to confirm them as PI.

Further testing will be required in herds with PI calves.

Results will be issued by ICBF using SMS (text) messages and letters.

ICBF will issue a letter confirming any positive, inconclusive or empty (no tissue present in the punch submitted) results, and advise you on the next steps to take.

How soon should calves be tagged/tested?

While calves may be tagged up to 20 days after birth, it is recommended that samples are taken as soon as possible after birth, although not until the calf is dry. Early sampling of calves reduces the possibility of a non-PI calf being infected with BVD virus after birth and becoming transiently infected (TI), leading to a positive virus result. Avoiding TI animals will remove the cost and inconvenience of re-testing them to distinguish between TI and PI calves

Early tagging also helps ensure that each calf is correctly matched to its dam.

This is vitally important to the success of the programme, because the dam of any PI calf also must be tested. Because a PI mother will always produce a PI calf, a negative result for a calf also gives an indirect negative result for the mother.

Store samples in a cool dark place (ideally in a non-domestic fridge) before sending them to the lab.

What can go wrong?

A small percentage of correctly taken samples may not contain a tissue sample when received by the testing lab. Should this happen, or a sample is unsuitable for test for any other reason, you must submit a further sample, either taken with a supplementary tag or by your vet.

long will the compulsory programme last?

For the vast majority of farmers, the programme will consist of three years of tissue tagging followed by three years of monitoring.

Some herds have almost completed one of the initial three years by taking part in the voluntary phase of the programme in 2012 (which detected a 0.62% BVD positive rate in about 482,000 samples).

What happens to PI calves?

While apparently normal at birth, PI calves often become ill-thrifty and die before reaching slaughter weight. During this time they remain a source of infection for other cattle, which may lead to the birth of further PI calves.

It is recommended that PI cattle are culled as soon as possible after being identified.

Where can I find out more information?

Further information, including details of the currently designated laboratories, will be sent to you with your delivery of tags.

Information is also available from your local veterinary practitioner, the farming press. and the AHI website (

How can I prove the BVD-free status of tested animals offered for sale?

Negative test status of animals in the programme will be displayed at the mart. For farm-to-farm sales, you may generate a declaration of negative results though the AHI Animal Health module on the website using your username (herd number) and log-in.

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