Poots launches consultation on Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) herd restrictions

Date published: 25 October 2022

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has today launched a consultation on proposals for herd restrictions to support the eradication of BVD and is asking interested organisations, groups and individuals to provide his Department with their views.

Minister Poots with Dr Sam Strain, Chief Executive of AHWNI.

Announcing the consultation, Minister Poots said: “BVD is a serious endemic disease of cattle, which significantly compromises animal health. Since the introduction of the compulsory eradication scheme in 2016, significant progress has been made in driving down the incidence of disease. However, the virus continues to pose a significant risk to the health of cattle in Northern Ireland (NI).

“It also places a substantial financial burden on NI industry – estimated to be between £25million and £30million per year – and has wider societal impacts, arising from its contribution to increased greenhouse gas emissions and antimicrobial usage.”

The main source of virus is from persistently infected animals (PI). These are animals that have become infected with the virus while in the womb and which are likely to suffer from poor health. PI animals generally do not thrive, most fail to reach slaughter weight and, ultimately, they have a major impact on the health and productivity of the herd as they shed virus throughout their lives. It is, therefore, in a farmer’s financial interests to remove these PI animals promptly.

Minister Poots added: “I am pleased that most farmers appreciate the risk that PI animals present to herds and are already removing these animals as soon as they can following a positive test result. I find it disconcerting, however, that there are farmers that are not testing all animals in their herd and continue to retain PI animals despite the risks they pose to their herd and to other herds, maintaining the cycle of infection.

“Therefore, to further support the ongoing efforts of industry and protect unaffected herds, I propose to introduce restrictions on herds that retain PI animals or animals with inconclusive test results. My Department is also seeking views on whether it should have the power to restrict herds that fail to test animals for BVD within a specified period.  Herd restrictions have proved to be a highly effective tool in the fight against BVD in other jurisdictions like Scotland and the Republic of Ireland (ROI), and I am confident the introduction of this disease control measure here would be a major step towards eradication of BVD in NI.”

Minister Poots concluded: “This consultation seeks views from stakeholders on proposals to introduce herd restrictions in NI to help eradicate BVD. It also seeks views on the introduction of an additional legal requirement to test any bovines without a BVD status that were born in or entered a herd prior to the introduction of the 2016 statutory scheme. I would strongly encourage all of those with an interest in the proposals to respond to the consultation.”

The proposals within the consultation document have been informed by engagement with Animal Health & Welfare, Northern Ireland (AHWNI), the delivery partner for the NI BVD eradication scheme and convenor of the BVD Implementation Group.

Welcoming the launch of the consultation, Dr Sam Strain, Chief Executive of AHWNI, said: “This is particularly important given the trading implications that the recent EU approval of the ROI BVD eradication programme has brought for Northern Ireland farmers, and the additional implications that may arise as the ROI works towards achieving BVD Free Status. The introduction of herd restrictions, where BVD positive animals are being retained is an important step on the journey to eradicating this disease and one that has been shown to be effective elsewhere. I would encourage those from the bovine livestock sector to read and respond to this consultation.”

Following the introduction of herd restrictions, the Department intends to work closely with industry to progress other eradication measures that are considered to be required to eradicate BVD.

The consultation closes on 20 December 2022 and is available to download.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The BVD Eradication Scheme Order (NI) 2016 (‘the BVD Order’) came into operation on 1 March 2016. Under the BVD Order, herd keepers are required to sample all calves within 20 days of birth as well as any bovine born after 1 March 2016 that enters a herd without a negative BVD status. Animals that test positive should be isolated to prevent direct or indirect contact with other susceptible animals.
  2. Animal Health & Welfare, Northern Ireland (AHWNI), is the delivery partner for the NI BVD eradication scheme. For more information on the operation of the Scheme, please contact AHWNI (email info@animalhealthni.com or tel. 028 7963 9333) or visit the AHWNI website www.animalhealthni.com.
  3. Since the compulsory scheme was brought into effect the prevalence of BVD in NI has fallen by over 50%. Currently, over 98% of cattle here have a negative BVD status. In the past 12 months, however, more than 1,500 calves in Northern Ireland have tested positive for BVD in around 800 herds.
  4. The Republic of Ireland’s (ROI) BVD Eradication programme was approved by the European Commission on 18 July 2022. This means that, if a herd keeper wishes to export cattle from NI to the ROI for breeding and production purposes, they must now meet BVD requirements on the relevant Export Health Certificate.
  5. The ROI aims to achieve BVD Free Status in 2023. When this happens, in addition to the current EHC requirements, no animal that has been vaccinated against BVD will be permitted to move into the ROI for breeding and production.
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  7. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office: pressoffice.group@daera-ni.gov.uk.
  8. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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