F.A.Q. about the scheme

2012 – Programme summary:

1. What were the main findings from the voluntary phase of the programme in 2012?
In the voluntary phase approximately 600,000 tags were ordered for use in 10,000 herds. Initial test results showed 0.61% positive, 0.02% inconclusive, 0.44% empty and 98.93% negative. 15% of herds had one or more animals with a positive or inconclusive result. 83% of calves that had an initial positive result and were subject to re-test were found positive again and are considered to have been PI, while the remaining 17% were considered to have been transiently infected.

 

2. When will farmers who participated in the voluntary phase of the programme receive confirmation that their results will count as one of the three anticipated years of tag testing?
A review of each herd that ordered tags for use in the voluntary phase of the programme is being undertaken in 2013. Each herd owner will then receive a letter confirming that he or she is considered to have complied with the guidelines, or advising the steps needed to achieve compliance, where possible.

 

3. How many herds had a high prevalence of positive results during the voluntary phase in 2012?
Approximately 15% of participating herds had one or more positive or inconclusive initial results in 2012. Of these, less than 5% had more than 5 or more such results.

 

4. If samples from my herd were sent for testing to an RVL, rather than the Central Veterinary Laboratory during the voluntary phase of the programme in 2012 can the results now be transferred to the ICBF database?
Blood tests results generated by RVL’s during 2012 may be transferred to ICBF upon the completion of a form by your veterinary practitioner. This form is available from the AHI website http://www.animalhealthireland.ie/page.php?id=144.

 

2013 Programme details:

 

1. Does a farmer who has no disease problems and is not vaccinating for BVD, still need to participate in the programme?
Yes. Under The Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Order (2012) all calves born after 1st January 2013 must be tagged and tested.

 

2. Will herds be able to achieve a BVD-free status within the programme?
Through successive rounds of tag testing, direct (subjected to BVD testing) and indirect (mother of one or more calves that have tested negative) results for each animal in the herd will accumulate. It is envisaged that after 3 years of testing all animals in many herds will have either tested negative or have produced a virus-negative calf demonstrating them to be non-PI. In other herds, a few animals of unknown status may remain, which can then be identified and tested. Herds at this point may be awarded a “non-suspect” status.

 

3. If blood testing in a CHeCs programme for BVD accreditation, will I have to do the tissue tag test?
Yes. Herds participating in the CHECS programme typically use check testing for antibodies of 5-10 animals from separately managed groups aged 9 – 18 months to screen for possible presence of infection in the herd. During the national programme all herds will be required to carry out tissue tag testing. This essentially represents a more intensive means of surveillance of herds to provide evidence of freedom from infection. In addition, the use of tissue tag testing provides a definitive result for each animal, demonstrating that animals with a negative test result are non-PI. The majority of herds participating in CHeCS programmes are pedigree, and are likely to already be testing stock to provide virus-negative results for society sales. The results of tissue tag testing, held on the ICBF database, will be available for this purpose. The CHeCS technical document has been updated to specifically recognise tissue testing of calves as an acceptable alternative surveillance method for achieving and maintaining accredited free and BVD vaccinated monitored free status within CHECS programmes.

 

4. I have previously tested my herd for BVD. Can these results be entered on the ICBF database and do I need to take part in the programme?
Results from previous testing may be transferred to the database by arrangement with the testing laboratory. This will only be available where testing has been carried out in a designated laboratory using an accredited test and where full traceability of the result to an animal is possible. Typically this will require blood samples which have been collected by your vet and which have been submitted with their official identification numbers.
Herds that have conducted testing prior to the launch of the national eradication programme in 2013 will still be required to perform tissue tag sampling. While such earlier testing will hopefully provide strong reassurance that infection is no longer present in the herd, testing of the calves is necessary as an on-going means of surveillance within the programme and to provide negative results to enable animals to be traded.

 

5. Should calves born toward the end of 2012 be tested?
The Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Order (2012) only requires that calves born after 1st January 2013 are tissue tagged and tested. However, you may wish to test calves born before that date to build up a profile of the herd as quickly as possible, or to have results available when selling the animals. This can be done using tissue tag or blood samples.

 

6. Will this programme be run successfully and within the 6 years?
The programme in Ireland is based on programmes that have run, or are running, successfully elsewhere. However, successful delivery will require farmers and the wider industry to engage and cooperate fully with the programme, even where this requires difficult decisions to be made.

 

7. Is the programme open to abuse?
The farming industry will be the beneficiaries of a successful eradication programme, and the ultimate success of the programme lies with farmers. While it is not possible to prevent all abuses of the programme, it is hoped that such abuses will be infrequent. The introduction of legislation and the availability of tissue samples for follow-up DNA testing should be effective deterrents.

 

8. Are there penalties for abusing the programme?
Specific legislation (The Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Order 2012) has been introduced for the programme which lays down requirements relating to tagging, submission of samples, additional testing, sale of animals and display of results. It will be for DAFM to decide how to deal with breaches of the legislation.

 

9. Will compensation be available in the compulsory phase of the programme?
To further encourage the prompt removal of BVD PI animals, the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and Marine has put in place a compensation programme for affected farmers for beef breed animals born in 2013. Briefly, DAFM will make a payment of €100 for the second and subsequent PI calves removed to a knackery. All eligible animals born prior to 29th July 2013 must be removed to the knackery by 16th September 2013 and have a date of death recorded on the Animal Identification Movement (AIM) system.
All animals born on or after 29th July 2013 must be removed to the knackery within 7 weeks of a positive or inconclusive test result and have a date of death recorded on the AIM system. Pending removal the infected animal(s) should be strictly isolated, with the dam if necessary, to avoid further transmission to other susceptible animals, particularly breeding stock.
The BVD compensation section of DAFM will issue application forms to farmers who may qualify for compensation, based on test results received by them. Only one application for needs to be returned per herd, irrespective of the number of PI animals ultimately detected. Attention should be paid to any deadlines for return of this form after receipt.
Full details of the terms and conditions can be found on the DAFM website at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/animalhealthwelfare/diseasecontrol/bovineviraldiarrhoeabvd/ .

 

10. How do I access my BVD results via ICBF?
In order for a herd owner to access his/her BVD results online they simply log on to www.icbf.com , use the blue box on the right hand side (Herd Plus section) and enter their username (this is the herd id) and a password. If they haven’t got a password yet they should click on “forgot your password?” and follow the instructions to have a password texted directly to them if their mobile number is on record or e-mailed to them if they provide an e-mail address. Alternatively they can call the Herd Plus help line on 1 850 600 900. Please note, they DO NOT need to subscribe to Herd Plus if they just want to view their BVD results.

 

General Questions:

 

1. Will the Mart display positive results for a PI animal?
The mart will display negative results. An animal with a positive results will not be allowed to be sold in the mart.

 

2. Can PI calves be reared on designated farms?
There is no provision within the national programme for PI animals to be knowingly reared on designated premises. Evidence shows that PI animals are typically ill-thriven, even though they may appear normal as calves, with many not surviving to reach slaughter weight. For this reason, rearing of PI animals is not considered to be economically viable. In addition, such premises would pose an on-going risk to neighbouring herds.

 

3. If a farmer has no disease problems and is not vaccinating for BVD, do they still need to participate in the voluntary phase of the programme?
While there is no obligation on farmers to participate in the voluntary phase of the programme, it will not be possible to achieve national eradication of BVD in a short period unless all herds participate in the programme from the beginning of the compulsory phase, which commenced in January 2013. The screening of calves through the testing of tissue samples provides an efficient means of intensively monitoring herds, both to identify herds which are currently infected and to pick up any transmission of infection into herds. In addition, testing of calves each year provides known non-PI animals for trade, breaking this key route for the spread of infection.

 

4. Will BVD-free herds be recognised within the programme?
Through successive rounds of tag testing, direct (subjected to BVD testing) and indirect (mother of one or more calves that have tested negative) results for each animal in the herd will accumulate. It is envisaged that after 3 years of testing all animals in many herds will either have tested negative or have produced a virus-negative calf demonstrating them to be non-PI. In other herds, a few animals of unknown status may remain, which can then be identified and tested. Herds at this point may be awarded a non-suspect status. It would be open to herds to do more intensive testing, over and above tagging of calves, to achieve this status in less than three years, although continued tagging and testing of added animals, as required, would be necessary to provide continued monitoring in non-suspect herds.

 

5. If blood testing in the CHeCs programme, will I have to do the tissue tag test?
Herds participating in the CHECS programme typically use check testing of 5-10 animals from separately managed groups aged 9 -18 months to screen for possible presence of infection in the herd. During the national programme all herds will be required to carry out tissue tag testing. This essentially represents a more intensive means of surveillance of herds to provide evidence of freedom from infection. In addition, the use of tissue tag testing provides a definitive result for each animal, demonstrating that animals with a negative test result are non-PI. The majority of herds participating in CHeCS programmes are pedigree, and are likely to already be testing stock to provide virus-negative results for society sales. The results of tissue tag testing, held on the ICBF database, will be available for this purpose. Animal Health Ireland is in discussion with the CHeCS technical working group to update the CHeCS technical document to specifically recognise tissue testing of calves as an acceptable surveillance method for achieving and maintaining accredited free and BVD vaccinated monitored free status within CHECS programmes.

 

6. Why are the results going to ICBF and not the farmer directly?
One of the challenges of a national eradication programme is the handling and coordination of all the test data that will be generated. Experience in other countries has shown that the use of a central database for handling results is highly beneficial for the efficient delivery of the programme. The ICBF database is ideally placed to provide this. It offers the facility to identify mothers of virus positive calves and to monitor the progress of the programme over time. In addition the use of a central database reduces the workload for the diagnostic labs and therefore the cost associated with testing.

 

7. How soon can you sell a calf after you tissue tag the calf?
Calves may be sold as soon as a negative result becomes available. Laboratories designated to provide this testing have undertaken to report 95% of results within 7 working days and 100% within 10 working days. In practice, it is hoped that results will be available even more rapidly. Testing laboratories should be contacted directly to discuss requirements for rapid turnaround of samples.

 

8. I have previously tested my herd for BVD. Can these results be entered on the ICBF database and do I need to take part in the programme?
Herds that have conducted testing prior to the launch of the national eradication programme in 2012 will still be required to perform tissue tag sampling. While earlier testing will hopefully provide strong reassurance that infection is no longer present in the herd, testing of the calves is necessary as an on-going means of surveillance within the programme and to provide negative results to enable animals to be traded. It is hoped to put in place a system to allow historical results back to the 1st Jan 2010 to be entered on the ICBF database. This will only be available for blood samples which have collected by your vet and which have been submitted to the lab accompanied by their official identification numbers.

 

9. Can I test calves earlier than January 2012?
Autumn born calves (or early spring 2012 calves) may also be tested within the programme. Button tags bearing the official identification number of these animals should be ordered from Mullinahone Co-op and submitted to designated labs for testing in the usual way.

 

10. Can you impose an upper age limit on animals being sold to ensure that potential PI animals that have not been tested as calves will not be traded?
Animals born after January 1st 2013 must have a negative test result in order to be sold.
11. Is it necessary to test both animals when twins are born?
A negative virus result for one of a pair of twins should confirm that neither animal is PI with BVD virus and that the mother of the twins is also not PI. However a negative result will be only stored on ICBF for calves which are tagged. It is therefore necessary to tag both calves in order to have negative results to display on mart boards or on farmer-generated declarations.

 

12. If a suckler calf is a PI, how do you source another BVD free calf to put on the suckler cow?
The test results for all animals tested as part of the national programme will be stored by the ICBF database. When these animals are presented for sale, test negative results will be displayed on the mart board. For farm-to-farm sales it is also possible for the seller to use the ICBF database to generate a declaration of negative results for the animal or animals that are being sold. These both provide a means by which buyers can ensure that purchased animals are not PI. In the absence of such guarantees, buyers are advised to isolate and test animals after purchase. In the case of a replacement calf, the cow should also be isolated until the result is available.

 

13. In the programme, why are you only testing calves and not weanlings it would fast track the eradication programme?
The level of testing within the programme is a balance between what is desirable, practical and affordable. PI animals have a markedly reduced life expectancy compared to non-PI comrades, with approximately 60% of PI animals estimated to be less than 1 year of age. Therefore testing new-born calves targets the population most likely to contain PI animals and allows this to be done by the farmer in a cost-effective manner. Where all calves born in the first year test negative this is a strong indication (although not a guarantee) that the herd is free from infection. It remains open to herd owners who wish to accelerate testing in their herds to also screen weanlings and these results can also be transferred by designated labs to the ICBF database and subsequently used if these animals are presented for sale to demonstrate that they are not PI.

 

14. Can you test other animals on your farm and include them in the eradication programme?
It remains open to herd owners to conduct additional testing over and above tagging of calves, even when all of the tag results are negative. This may be done e.g. to accelerate the programme of herd screening to confirm that the herd is free from infection as quickly as possible or to target specific groups of animals to demonstrate that they are not PI for sale purposes. These additional samples should be sent to designated labs for testing, which can then transfer the results to the ICBF database in the same way as that for tissue tag results. Note that where blood samples are being used for these purposes, they must be taken by a vet and submitted to the testing lab with the following permission statement, : to give the testing Laboratory permission to transfer my test results to ICBF to be used and shared in the administration of the BVD eradication programme and I agree to comply with the programme guidelines. The submission form should be signed by both the vet who took the samples, and the herd owner directly below this wording. A list of designated labs and the samples (tissues, blood, milk) for which they are designated is available at www.animalhealthireland.ie.

 

15. What are the benefits of tissue tag testing calves born in 2011?
Farmers with autumn calving herds may wish to tissue tag these calves. Doing so will enable them to participate in the programme now rather than waiting until the autumn of 2012 and will mean that weanlings offered for sale in 2012 will have test results available. In addition, predominantly spring calving herds, where a small number of calves are actually born late in 2011, should also tag these calves to ensure that the whole crop is tested.

 

16. Will there be restriction of movement of calves while waiting to get results?
Animals born after January 1st 2013 must have a negative test result in order to be sold.

 

17. Why is the national programme not compulsory from 2012?
The BVD Implementation Group received various opinions as to whether the programme should be compulsory from the outset from 2012. The transition to an immediate compulsory programme would have required extensive legislation and would have presented significant logistical challenges. The decision to have an initial voluntary period will allow systems that have been put in place to be tested and flaws and weaknesses to be identified and corrected. In addition it will allow industry to demonstrate its support for the programme which in turn will assist in bringing forward Ministerial support for legislation for the compulsory phase of the programme.

 

18. When during the programme can we expect to stop vaccination?
Vaccination is currently running at approximately 40% in dairy herds and 10% in suckler herds. Decisions at individual herd level on when to stop vaccination should ultimately be taken by the farmer in discussion with his veterinary practitioner, taking into account the risk of introduction of infection. If the programme is successful then after 3 years of tag testing and follow-up in herds with virus-positive animals, the prevalence of PI animals and herds containing such animals, will be markedly reduced compared to current levels. At that time, herd owners who are currently vaccinating should revaluate their position in the light of changed risk of infection. It should be born in mind that some countries such as Switzerland, prohibited the use of vaccine in advance of the running of a national eradication programme.

 

19. Will DAFM be notified if a farmer has PI animals in 2012?
In the absence of legislation PI animals are not currently notifiable. However DAFM will be aware of positive and inconclusive results that occur in 2012 and will contact herd owners to ensure they are aware of the results. The BVD Implementation Group is in discussion with DAFM regarding legislation for the compulsory phase of the programme, which will include a prohibition on the sale of PI animals.

 

20. If you have a PI during the tagging phase, do you have to start testing all over again?
If the tissue tagging of calves shows the presence of one or more PI animals in the herd then additional testing to identify and remove any further PI animals in the herd is necessary. At a minimum this should involve the testing of the mothers of any calves with positive or inconclusive results. For this reason it is vital that the calves are correctly assigned to their mothers during the voluntary and compulsory phases of the programme. Where mothers are identified as being PI then any further offspring of those animals that are still in the herd should also be followed up in turn. Where virus positive animals are identified in a herd it is recommended that herds veterinary practitioner is consulted to ensure that an appropriate screening programme is put in place.

 

21. What level of uptake would be required in 2012 for the programme to become compulsory thereafter?
There is not a specific target for 2012 to enable the programme to become compulsory in 2013. Nevertheless a very low level of uptake would inevitably make it more difficult to progress to a compulsory programme in 2013. Of equal importance during the voluntary period is the ability to demonstrate that the procedures that have been put in place are robust and efficient and, conversely, that any problems that are identified are satisfactorily resolved.

 

22. After the 3 years testing with the ear notch test, will ear notch testing still be available?
After 3 years with the focus on tissue tag testing the emphasis will switch to surveillance and monitoring of herds to show that they are free of infection. It is envisaged this will be carried out primarily using antibody testing on bulk tank milk samples, pooled first lactation milk samples and targeted blood sampling of young stock.

 

23. Is it intended to use other samples for BVD testing apart from tissue samples?
It is envisaged that the primary means of sampling of calves will be the tissue tag. However this may be supplemented by blood sampling. For example, herd owners may use their vets to re-sample animals where there has been a problem with sample collection initially or, more commonly, to carry out re-testing of calves with positive or inconclusive results and the dams of these calves. Vets may also use blood sampling and bulk tank milk RT-PCR testing as part of wider herd-level investigations. The results of such testing, provided it has been carried out by designated laboratories, will also be held on the ICBF database.

 

24. What is the situation regarding BVD control in Northern Ireland?
A group is currently meeting in Northern Ireland to consider options for BVD eradication. The current position of this group is that the model developed in the Republic of Ireland, with the emphasis on tag testing of calves, will also be used in NI.

 

25. What are the benefits of participating in the voluntary phase of the programme in 2012?
Herds participating in the voluntary phase in 2012 may obtain a number of benefits. Firstly, for herds which are currently infected with BVD, the earlier they participate then the earlier they will eradicate the infection from the herd and avoid the economic losses associated with this disease. Secondly, it is anticipated that calves which can be shown to be non-PI through programme results on ICBF will attract a premium at sale. Thirdly, for herds that participate in the programme and comply with the programme guidelines, it is intended that the results for 2012 will count as one of the 3 years of tag testing envisaged within the programme. Finally, the financial incentives provided by DAFM in relation to the programme will only be available during the voluntary phase of the programme in 2012.

 

26. Has a decision been made on whether the programme will be compulsory in 2012?
BVD testing of new born calves is compulsory from January 1st 2013.

 

27. Why can’t we blood sample all cattle in Ireland and remove the disease in one year?
Theoretically all animals could be sampled and tested in one year, although logistically this would be a significant challenge. In addition, even having done this, it would not give a test result for the unborn calves being carried during that year, requiring all calves to be tested the following year. The current programme of testing calves automatically gives a result for the dams also, with a negative calf result indicating that the mother of that calf is also not PI.

 

28. Why can’t we round up all the calves and tag on a single day, rather than within 7 days of birth?
Tagging within 7 days is consistent with current legislation on the time to insertion of official identification tags. Early tagging also ensures that persistently infected (PI) animals are identified as soon as possible after birth, while minimizing the possibility that non-PI calves may acquire a transient infection due to contact with a PI, which will give a positive virus result when tested. This will minimise their opportunity to transmit infection to other calves making them more susceptible to scours and pneumonias and in-calf animals getting further PI calves born the following calving season. Finally, early identification allows removal of calves at a stage when there has been minimum investment in them (feed, vaccines etc).

 

29. Why can’t the blue card indicate that an animal is persistently infected?
This is an option that may be exercised during the compulsory period of the programme. During the voluntary period it is not possible to tell which calves are being tested (and which therefore should have their cards held pending results).

 

30. If a farmer purchases all his animals through the Marts, what is the best way to avoid buying PI animals?
If buying calves/weanlings during 2012 a farmer should seek to buy only calves that are shown on the display board as having had a virus negative test result. For animals for which this is not available, they should be isolated after purchase and tested. Even where purchased animals have already tested negative, it is advisable to isolate them for 3-4 weeks if it is possible that they might have been exposed to virus around the time of sale (and therefore be transiently infected).Note that pregnant animals even when test-negative, may be carrying a PI calf. They should therefore be isolated until they have calved and the calf tested negative.

 

31. Will there be control over imported stock?
This will be addressed in the context of legislation. In the meantime, purchasers should treat imported and local calves of unknown BVD status in the same way i.e. isolate and test them.

 

32. In the programme, why are you only testing calves and not weanlings it would fast track the eradication programme?
The level of testing within the programme is a balance between what is desirable, practical and affordable. PI animals have a markedly reduced life expectancy compared to non-PI comrades, with approximately 60% of PI animals estimated to be less than 1 year of age. Therefore testing new-born calves targets the population most likely to contain PI animals and allows this to be done by the farmer in a cost-effective manner. Where all calves born in the first year test negative this is a strong indication (although not a guarantee) that the herd is free from infection. It remains open to herd owners who wish to accelerate testing in their herds to also screen weanlings and these results can also be transferred by designated labs to the ICBF database and subsequently used if these animals are presented for sale to demonstrate that they are not PI.

 

33. Can you test other animals on your farm and include them in the eradication programme?
Yes- additional animals may be tested and their results included on the ICBF database. This may be done for specific groups of animals to provide negative results for sale, to confirm the negative status of the herd as quickly as possible, or to screen herds following identification of PI animals. To be included on the ICBF database, all tests must be carried out in laboratories designated for that particular test. For samples other than tissue samples collected by ear tag, the submission form should include the following text: to give the testing Laboratory permission to transfer my test results to ICBF to be used and shared in the administration of the BVD eradication programme and I agree to comply with the programme guidelines and be signed by both the vet who took the samples and the herd owner directly below this wording. Details of all labs currently designated, and the tests to which the designation applies, are available at www.animalhealthireland.ie.

 

34. I have carried out BVD testing in my herd in recent years before the introduction of the national programme. Can these results be included in the programme?
It is not currently possible, for a number of reasons, for BVD test results generated outside the national BVD eradication programme to be formally added to the ICBF database. Currently, the priority for ICBF must remain dealing with programme testing, including on-going database development, liaison with designated laboratories, and the receipt, validation and reporting of results to herd owners. Even if a suitable interface to enter these historical results were developed, it is unclear who would enter them and what the costs associated with this process would be. While testing laboratories or veterinary practices might be willing to absorb the costs of entering this data, this would clearly have to be settled on a case by case basis. The BVD Implementation Group (IG) has invested considerable effort in designating laboratories to provide testing for the programme, including addressing the issue of test accreditation. This has resulted in a number of laboratories in Ireland recently being awarded the necessary accreditation. However it raises the question as to how best to deal with results generated by these, and other laboratories, prior to their having accreditation in place. Finally, the traceability of results back to the sampled animals would have to be addressed. While this should be relatively straightforward for blood samples taken by veterinary surgeons, and certified by them in relation to the animal from which they came, it is clearly more complicated in relation to tissue tag samples collected by the farmer, particularly when, as was the case prior to the introduction of the national programme, these did not bear the official identification number of the animal,. This policy will be kept under review by the BVDG.

 

35. My order for tissue tags for the national BVD eradication programme has not been delivered but I have animals that I need to tag to comply with the programme guidelines. What are the implications of this and what should I do?
The tag order forms indicate that farmers should allow 20 working days for delivery of tag orders. For many orders placed in December this has been further complicated by the Christmas holidays. There are several circumstances where the lack of tags may become a problem- for example stillborn calves or calves that are born live but die in the first days of life and are disposed of through appropriate channels according to normal practice. While this is likely only to affect a small number of calves in a minority of herds, it technically represents a breach of the programme guidelines which require all calves born into the herd, including those that are stillborn, to be tagged. While failure to tag and test these calves means that their BVD status, and that of their mothers remains unknown, the BVD Implementation Group (BVDG) recognises that this is not an intentional breach of the guidelines and will not seek to disqualify such herds, for this reason, from having their test results from the voluntary year of the programme count as one of the three anticipated years of tag testing. The option exists to at least partially reduce the loss of information arising from the failure to tag these calves by testing the dam. This may be done with a blood sample taken by your vet or using a tissue tag labelled with the official identity number of the cow, which may be applied by yourself. Alternatively, a bulk milk tank RT-PCR test could be used, provided the dam in question was contributing to the tank .
For more information and answers to all your question please go to the following link below:
http://www.animalhealthireland.ie/page.php?id=116

Enfer Group M7 Business Park,
Newhall, Naas,
Co. Kildare.
T: +353 (0) 45 983800 / E: info@enfergroup.com