Unannounced inspections to check that Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) positive animals are being isolated will soon start, the NI government has confirmed.
Herds which retain a BVD positive animal will be visited by Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) inspectors in 'the coming weeks'.
They are seeking to confirm compliance with the 2016 BVD Order, which requires isolation ‘within housing to prevent direct or indirect contact with other susceptible animals’.
DAERA has warned that those farmers or herd keepers who have not isolated BVD positive animals may be prosecuted.
If convicted, this may lead up to a fine of up to £5,000 for a single animal, or up to £1,000 per animal if more than 5 animals are involved.
Infected animals present a very high risk of further infection to the rest of their herd, to neighbouring herds and to herds purchasing pregnant stock from BVD infected farms.
Industry stakeholders in the NI BVD Programme are keen to see an acceleration of progress towards eradication and have asked for enforcement measures to be implemented.
A DAERA spokesperson said: “Herd keepers are initially informed of the requirement to isolate BVD positives by Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland (AHWNI) when test results are reported.
"The Department will now be issuing an isolation warning letter if the animal is still in the herd for a significant period after the positive test date.
"This will be followed up by an isolation inspection visit if the animal remains in the herd."
The number of BVD positives in Northern Ireland has fallen significantly in recent months, government figures show.
However, DAERA said progress towards the complete eradication of BVD was being delayed by the retention of BVD positive animals by a minority of herd keepers.
Dr Sam Strain, chief executive of Animal Health and Welfare NI, called on farmers to take notice of the new measures.
“These actions should help to reinforce the veterinary advice that farmers who own BVD Positive cattle must urgently take steps to deal with the virus in their herds and cull Persistently Infected cattle promptly.”