Northern Irish farmers who flout Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) testing regulations will receive tougher penalties under new plans.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced plans to take enforcement action against farmers who breach the testing requirements of the 2016 BVD Order.
BVD is a highly contagious viral infection which currently affects over 7% of cattle herds in Northern Ireland.
The disease is spread by persistently infected (PI) and transiently infected (TI) animals. PI animals are the most important as they are infectious for their entire lifetime, continuously shedding very high levels of the virus.
Initially they often appear normal but usually they become ill at an early age with most dying before they reach breeding age or slaughter weight.
Under new plans, herds with significant numbers of untested animals born since 1 March 2016 - when compulsory testing commenced - will be contacted and given 30 days to have these animals tested. Failure to do so may result in prosecution.
Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Robert Huey said: “Since BVD testing became compulsory we have seen a significant drop in the prevalence of BVD, however, it is disappointing that a small number of herd keepers continue to keep untested animals.
“Some of these are likely to be persistently infected with BVD virus so they are a disease risk, both to the current herd and to neighbouring herds.”
He continued: “BVD eradication is dependent on herd keepers being aware of the status of their animals and taking appropriate action. The Department has a responsibility to ensure the legislation is adhered to and we will seek to enforce this through the courts if necessary.”