BVD enforcement letters sent to farmers by mistake

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The Department of Agriculture has admitted that some enforcement letters sent out to farmers in relation to the movement of calves untested for BVD were issued in error.

Last week over 2,400 letters were sent to farmers in Northern Ireland in relation to calves which appear to have been moved from farms before BVD tests were carried out or before BVD negative results were available.

Now a spokesperson for DAERA has confirmed that while the majority of letters were accurate, some were issued in error and an apology has been issued to the farmers affected.

A farmer from the Co Antrim area who contacted Farming Life said he had received a letter in relation to three calves, all of which had been correctly tested. He had previously received a text confirming the clear test for all three.

He added: “When I received the letter I contacted the DAERA office in Ballymena and I was told that I was one of hundreds of farmers who had received the letter wrongly. A lot of these letters have been issued wrongly and its clear something has gone wrong with the system.”

The Department spokesperson said the extent of the problem is currently being investigated and farmers who received a letter in error will be contacted and an apology offered.

The spokesperson stated: “Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) is a highly contagious disease which reduces the productivity and profitability of affected herds, as well as compromising animal welfare

“DAERA is working with the industry to eradicate the disease and on 1st March 2016, introduced legislation to support that. It requires herd keepers to tag and test all newborn calves for BVD.

“This legislation is being implemented on a day-to-day basis by the industry body Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland (AHWNI) and enforced by DAERA. Notices, warnings and formal correspondence in relation to the Scheme are therefore issued by DAERA officials using information on BVD test results provided by AHWNI and with support from Industry,” the spokesperson added.

“The Department can confirm that it recently issued 2,430 enforcement letters in relation to calves which appear to have moved from farms before BVD tests were carried out or before BVD negative results were available. This is not only non-compliance but it puts the receiving herd at potential risk of introducing BVD to the herd.

“The majority of the warning letters issued by the Department are accurate, however, some letters were issued in error, understandably causing unnecessary concern and annoyance to those receiving them.

“The error occurred due to the information on the Industry’s AHWNI database on BVD test results not being sufficiently current when compared to the department’s APHIS movement data.

“The Department and AHWNI apologise unreservedly to anyone mistakenly receiving a letter. The extent of the problem is currently being investigated and farmers affected by the misinformation will be identified by DAERA and AHWNI working together and contacted and an apology offered,” the spokesperson concluded.