The industry-led national BVD eradication programme is designed and managed by the BVD Implementation group.
The programme began with a voluntary year on 1st January 2012 and uptake and progress to date have been encouraging. Despite the inconvenience and additional costs of using a third button tag (as opposed to a tissue sample enabled official identification tag) for the collection of samples, over 534,000 tags have already been ordered. This represents approximately 25% of the annual national calf crop with participating herds split approximately 60:40 between dairy and beef.
The voluntary period has provided an opportunity to road test many different aspects of the programme, and it has been encouraging to see processor groups putting in place arrangements with designated laboratories to obtain competitive prices and a streamlined procedure for submission and payment. The testing laboratories have performed well, dealing comfortably with a throughput which at the peak of spring calving exceeded 35,000 samples per week, achieving an average turnaround time from receipt in the lab to reporting of less than 5 days.
Electronic transfer of test results to ICBF and their subsequent reporting to farmers has also worked well. Based on 207,000 results reported by late March, 0.58% have been found virus positive. This is broadly in line with the estimated prevalence of 0.75%, while the incidence of samples received by laboratories that do not contain any tissue is lower than anticipated at 0.42%.
Another recent development has been the commencement of the display of BVD test status of calves on mart display boards, with this expected to become widely available in the next 1-2 months. This will enable sellers to demonstrate the BVD status of their stock and purchasers the opportunity to avoid the purchase of persistently infected calves. Farmers can also generate declarations of negative test results from ICBF to provide independent evidence of test results for farm-to-farm sales.
A further positive development is the progress being made toward establishing an eradication programme in Northern Ireland based on tissue tag testing. This offers the potential of eradication on an all-island basis, and would address one source from which infection could be reintroduced.
A detailed review of the programme will take place over the summer by which point most of the tags ordered will have been used and results available. However, the level of uptake of the programme during the voluntary year, and the absence of major problems with its delivery, already provide a strong basis for moving the programme to a compulsory basis from January 2013 onward. This will require legislative support, and the BVDIG has already put proposals to, and begun discussions with, DAFM in relation to this. Key aspects are expected to include a requirement to test all calves born after 1st January 2013 and a prohibition on the sale of virus-positiveanimals.
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