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NBA: Voluntary carrot better than compulsory stick

21 September 2010

The NBA thinks efforts to eliminate BVD in Scotland will be more successful if initial government cash support is used to cover the cost of on-farm blood testing within the suckler herd to identify and remove persistently infected (PI) cattle on a voluntary basis

The National Beef Association thinks efforts to eliminate BVD in Scotland will be more successful if initial government cash support is used to cover the cost of on-farm blood testing within the suckler herd to identify and remove persistently infected (PI) cattle on a voluntary basis.

This means its view is different from organisations which favour government assistance being targeted at covering the cost of PI removal for slaughter and the lifting of PI’s becoming compulsory just two years after the eradication programme has been adopted.

The Chairman of the Scottish Council of the NBA, Hamish McBean, believes BVD elimination will be made easier and quicker if each of these modifications is adopted.

“Testing for BVD in the suckler herd cannot be done, on a routine basis, through the milk as it will be for the dairy herd. Each suckler cow will have to be individually blood tested with the owner facing veterinary and laboratory costs, which stacked together, could become a disincentive to quickly joining at the early stages,” he explained.

“So better overall national coverage, and the more efficient removal of the dangerously infected PIs, will be more easily achieved if suckled calf breeders didn't face this sector specific charge and BVD reduction was uniform across both beef and dairy cows alike.”

The Association also feels that the national anti-BVD scheme would attract more good will, and a more enthusiastic overall response, if compulsion was not installed until the operation had reached its mopping up stage.

“Farmers who are determined to make their contribution to the eradication of BVD in Scotland because they accept that BVD is a drag on the industry will still be running businesses that require flexible management,” said McBean.

“And besides the problem of accommodating microbial and other husbandry issues, there could be unhelpful resistance to a compulsory component when better results could be achieved through emphasis on a well informed community effort and good will.”

“Farmers as a group respond much better to carrots rather than sticks and it could be counterproductive, even disruptive, if the compulsory stick was introduced too early and vets arrived on-farms each year to force removal.”

“This campaign should focus instead on making sure every cattle farmer in Scotland understands the benefits of eradicating the disease as quickly as possible.”

“There should also be an effort to make sure no PI’s enter Scotland after the eradication programme has started – which means all incoming breeding cattle must be pre-tested.”

“And at the same time Scotland itself must take on the responsibility of choosing the moment when it makes sure no PI’s can be knowingly sold by one farmer in Scotland to another,” Mr McBean added.


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