Reacting angrily to the findings presented to the Animal Health Ireland BVD Implementation Group by CVERA and Hans-Herman Thulke that there is no viable alternative to tissue tagging to achieve BVD eradication, IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart has called for an immediate review of the structures and funding model of the programme by the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.
He said the experts who designed the Irish programme have serious questions to answer to farmers following these revelations this late into the programme. The majority of the information, particularly in relation to the scale, calving profile and management practices of farms was available when this programme was originally developed and should have been factored in.
He said the BVD Technical Working Group must come before the implementation group as a matter of urgency and explain how this critical omission in their original programme occurred.
IFA highlighted these concerns more than two years ago. The assertion was that farmers were to blame for the programme developer’s failure to offer a lower cost testing option following three years Tissue Tag testing within herds has now been proved incorrect.
He said the extra testing and costs this serious error will impose on farmers in order to achieve eradication of BVD is unacceptable and must be addressed through the establishment of a new funding model.
The IFA Chairman has also strongly criticised the role played by the Department of Agriculture in the programme to-date, highlighting unacceptable delays in the provision of support payments to farmers, no 2015 payments have to-date been paid to farmers, and the issuing of restriction notices and neighbour notifications.
Bert Stewart said the recently published Tag approval process for the provision of Bovine Identification tags by the Department clearly shows a lack of co-ordination in the Department and seriously jeopardises the programme by only providing for a dual purpose tissue sampling and genomic testing tag to be approved. This raises huge concerns for the accreditation status of laboratories to test for BVD which is a cornerstone of the current programme.
The ability of all designated labs to test samples provided in the new format is very questionable with a number already raising concerns with IFA. This introduces the risk of BVD testing costs being increased for farmers by reducing competition.
The logistics at laboratory level associated with identifying and forwarding the samples required for genomic testing following BVD testing have not been developed or the associated costs quantified.
The new Tissue Sampling and Genomic testing tag is a more expensive tag, and while the option is important for farmers who require both tests, it is not acceptable this increased cost is imposed on all farmers by the Department as a result of the approval document they have issued.
Bert Stewart said farmers entered a BVD Eradication programme in good faith following the advice of the experts which was initiated and costed as a three year tissue tag testing programme with a further 2 to 3 years lower cost monitoring to achieve eradication. Some farmers have now completed 5 years tissue tag testing with the majority having completed 4. The recent revelations now mean farmers will at a minimum have a further 2 to 3 years tissue tagging. This is not acceptable.
Bert Stewart said the Department of Agriculture and the Minister must now step up to the mark, farmers have invested almost €40m in BVD programme to-date and have been failed by both Technical Experts who designed the programme and the Department of Agriculture.
Bert Stewart said BVD must be eradicated from the national herd but the Department of Agriculture must now pick up the pieces and fund fully the remaining testing that will be required to achieve this. It is incomprehensible and unacceptable to expect farmers to pay for the mistakes of others.