Each of these figures is slightly higher than those observed during the voluntary phase of the programme, although not markedly so. Regular updates are available on the AHI website (www.bvdfree.ie). Overall, the programme is running well, with data suggesting the sample submission rate for registered calves is already running at 96% or more. Here, David Graham of AHI outlines some key points for farmers to note.
*What are this legislation’s key points?
>>The Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Order (2012) requires farmers to insert a tissue sample tag into all calves born after Jan 1, 2013. In most cases this will be a modified official identity tag. The other option is to use a supplementary (button) tag labelled with the ID number of the calf. Calves must be tagged within 20 days of birth, although it is recommended that this is done as soon as possible after birth. Tags must then be submitted within seven days to a laboratory designated for testing.
Calves must have a negative test result recorded before they can be moved (sold), with the exception of moves for disposal as an animal by-product, directly to slaughter or under ministerial permit.
The dams of calves with positive or inconclusive results, and the offspring and descendants of test-positive dams are also suspected of being affected with BVD and are subject to this movement restriction until the suspicion is removed by a negative retest of the calf or a negative test on the suspect animal.
*What is the latest update on the number of herds having ordered tissue sample tags?
>>The majority of herds have now ordered and received tissue sample tags. However, a minority of herds still have not ordered either official or supplementary tissue tags and are reminded to do so before calving begins.
*What do you advise farmers when inserting tags?
>>For many farmers this will be their first experience of inserting tissue sample tags. An information leaflet describing the process is included with delivered tags and should be read carefully before inserting the first tag. In order to reduce the likelihood of problems, such as empty samples, farmers are advised to go through the tissue tagging procedure slowly and methodically when carrying it out for the first time, to ensure that the calf is adequately restrained and that the calf’s ear is dry before tagging.
*Advice on posting samples?
>>It is important that samples are correctly packaged and that the correct amount of postage is paid. Samples should be placed in a sealable plastic bag along with any necessary payment within a strong (padded) envelope addressed to the testing laboratory. The envelope should be labelled with the words ‘Exempt Animal Specimen’ and the sender’s herd number (in case the sender needs to be identified).
*What is the procedure for reporting / transfer of results?
>>Designated laboratories transfer results to the ICBF database on a daily basis. Where a mobile phone number has been provided, results are then issued by SMS (text) message.
In addition, for non-negative results, the database generates a letter on behalf of DAFM advising on the implications of the result, including re-testing. This is accompanied by an advice note from the cross-industry BVD Implementation Group that is overseeing the programme.
Despite the large volumes of testing, available data shows that the great majority of samples are being turned around quickly by testing laboratories, with results transferred to ICBF within one to two working days from receipt. ICBF also transfers results to DAFM databases and this information is used to ensure compliance with the movement control aspects of the legislation, including sale through marts and generation of compliance certificates for farm to farm sales. Farmers who have provided a mobile phone number should note that results will not be available to DAFM databases before they have received the results by SMS.
*How do people go about the re-testing of their animals?
>>While the majority of animals with an initial positive or inconclusive result will be persistently infected (PI), the remainder will be transiently infected (TI). The programme allows animals to be retested to confirm that they are PI. This should be done at least three weeks after the initial sample was taken. The advice note sent with these results includes a submission form for these samples. Note that re-test blood samples must be sent by the farmer’s vet to Sligo Regional Veterinary Laboratory. Where re-testing is carried out by tissue sample, DNA testing is used to confirm the identity of the first and second samples in the minority of cases where the re-test result is negative.
The BVD Order (2012) also requires that a further sample is needed after an empty result. Again this can be taken with a supplementary tissue tag or a blood sample. In this case, blood samples should not be submitted to Sligo RVL, but instead to any designated laboratory.
*Further information: Contact the BVD helpdesk (076-1064590) with queries or to provide or update your mobile number. The AHI website (www.bvdfree.ie) contains a range of information, including a current listing of designated laboratories and answers to a range of frequently asked questions. Your own veterinary practitioner is best placed to provide advice on the disease and its control within your herd.