The measure was put in place to facilitate the removal of persistently infected (PI) animals from herds and was pushed for by the Union.
“We wanted schemes that would ensure the EU Exceptional Adjustment Aid (EAA) funding was used strategically and delivered benefits across our livestock sectors. We wanted to see the aid package used in a way that provided genuine and lasting benefits to the industry. The BVD, pig health and the soil sampling schemes, all delivered under the EAA, are excellent examples of what industry and government can achieve when we work together,” said Mr Chestnutt.
During the first seven months of the scheme, over 1,070 claims for PI calves were submitted. Mr Chestnutt says that the scheme has had a positive impact on the ground. “PI animals are being removed earlier and the scheme has helped farmers cope with the costs.”
However, figures from the scheme indicate that a small number of farmers are holding on to PI calves and it is possible that more awareness raising needs to be done about the financial and welfare risks associated with BVD.
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Mr Chestnutt continued: “Research shows that retaining a single PI animal doubles the risk of having further PIs the following year. Less than 20% of PIs make it to a productive age. Given this, it is highly recommended that any BVD PI animal is removed as quickly as possible, with or without an incentive scheme. The UFU has supported calls for herd restrictions for farmers who retain PI animals. Ultimately, we want to see this preventable disease eradicated as quickly as possible.”
The UFU believes that the BVD scheme should be viewed as a ‘successful pilot’ and is encouraging DAERA to consider similar schemes in future.
Mr Chestnutt concluded: “It is regrettable that the BVD scheme has operated for such a short window.
“Evidence shows that a combination of education, incentives, and reasonable controls help to reduce disease levels. This is working in other regions, such as the Republic of Ireland, and we believe it can work here too.”
The BVD incentivisation scheme formed part of a £4million package of support for local livestock farmers provided under the EU Exceptional Adjustment Aid (EAA), which opened in February 2017.
The BVD Eradication Scheme came into operation on 1 March 2016. It requires that any calf born on or after that date is tagged and a tissue sample taken and tested for the presence of the BVD virus.