1:00pm Friday 25th November 2011
A disease with major financial implications for Welsh livestock farmers could be eradicated if the country adopts a national screening and testing regime.
According to the president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Jerry Davies, there is justification for a bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) eradication scheme in Wales, similar to a programme already in place in Scotland.
BVD in cattle causes abortion, infertility, failure to thrive and often death and is present in a growing number of herds in Wales, mainly spread by persistently infected cattle which are born with the disease.
While the majority die as calves, some cattle born with the disease can survive for a relatively long period and appear healthy. Removing them from the national herd is critical to eradication.
The Scottish Government is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds helping farmers tackle the disease.
Jerry Davies, who grew up in Pembrokeshire and recently had a meeting with vets in the county, said Wales could benefit from such a scheme.
"Agricultural animals are part of the economy of Wales and there is some justification for supporting a national scheme," said Mr Davies.
He said there were parallels in the economies of Wales and Scotland because a large proportion of the populations were linked either directly or indirectly to farming and therefore there could be support for a government-funded scheme.
He believed a uniform approach to disease control in the UK was important.
"Diseases don’t respect borders so ideally a co-ordinated plan is needed with each administration investing the same amount of money," he said.
In Scotland an annual testing requirement on all cattle herds was introduced in September and from September 2012 all cattle identified as ‘Persistently Infected’ will need to be housed in secure facilities or slaughtered.
A second phase could see movement restrictions introduced on herds that fail to tackle BVD problems.
Mr Davies also supports the idea of a pilot cull of badgers in his native Pembrokeshire.
He is convinced that the evidence it would produce would be invaluable in understanding and controlling bovine TB.
"There are limits to the scientific evidence that can be gained from laboratory work and historical data. Having a pilot control programme in the field can provide that other part of the jigsaw," he added.
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