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Farmers Urged To Participate In Cattle Health Debate

02 June 2010

SCOTLAND, UK - National Farmers' Union Scotland is urging every cattle keeper in the country to carefully consider a Scottish Government consultation on a groundbreaking scheme to eradicate the costly disease Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) from the national herd.

BVD is one of the most common cattle diseases and currently costs the Scottish cattle sector millions of pounds each year in terms of production losses. Disease prevention at farm level is largely based on costly vaccination programmes. The Union believes the proposals, if brought in, could see Scotland officially declared BVD-free in a few short years.

The proposed eradication scheme, announced yesterday (Tuesday, 1 June), would be in two stages. In the first phase, farmers would voluntarily screen their animals for the disease. By agreeing to slaughter those cattle persistently infected with the BVD virus (called PIs), they would receive some compensation. In the second phase, herd screening would be compulsory, and PIs would require to be slaughtered with no financial incentive available.

The proposal builds on work done by industry and science stakeholders over the past year, a group that has included NFU Scotland Vice-President and qualified vet, Nigel Miller. Speaking from Prague, where he is participating in an international conference on infectious cattle diseases including BVD, Mr Miller said:

“First and foremost, Scotland’s cattle farmers need to consider the principle behind the proposals and ask themselves the question ‘Is it a good idea for the industry to eradicate BVD?’

“If they accept the principle, then we need to move on to looking at the detail as to how we go about it. We know Shetland and Orkney have done a great job in tackling the disease. Other countries in Europe have also been successful in eradicating BVD but that success has, in part, been down to an element of compulsion. If there is no requirement to comply with the proposal, then it will be difficult to ultimately arrive at the position of declaring Scotland BVD-free.

“We urge all farmers to look at the various models being proposed in the Scottish Government consultation on how we go about ridding our herds of BVD. While there will be obvious benefits to any farmer from keeping BVD out of their herd, there will also be veterinary costs associated with verifying that cattle are disease-free. We need those figures to stack up if all producers are to come on side with this proposal.

“A BVD-free Scotland also poses questions on cross-border trading. A significant number of cattle from the rest of the UK enter Scotland each year and there would have to be monitoring of those breeding and store animals crossing the Border if we are to secure a disease-free status.

“Time is of the essence and there is an opportunity to have a Scottish BVD Eradication scheme in place by the autumn and a genuine opportunity to see Scotland declared BVD-free within a few short years.”

TheCattleSite News Desk



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