Proposal 8 - Increased pressure on BVD "positive" herds and protection of neighbours
Retaining PIs keeps the source of BVD virus on the farm and risks continuing infection of the herd, with the creation of new generations of PIs. In addition, PIs can put neighbours at risk of infection through direct or indirect contact.
We consulted on a proposal to publish the location details of farms where one or more virus positive animals are retained. In order to ensure that the proposed measure is not a disincentive for taking action on PIs, publication would need to be delayed for a period after disclosure of a virus positive animal to give the keeper opportunity to re-test the animal and confirm it either as transiently-infected or a PI, and/or to remove it from the herd.
Question 23: Do you think that the Scottish Government should publish the location details of virus positive cattle?
72% of respondents were in favour of the Scottish Government publishing the location details of virus positive animals. 16% disagreed and 3% were unsure about this proposal.
Figure 25: Do you think that the Scottish Government should publish the location details of virus positive cattle?
Respondents who backed the proposal to publish the location details of virus positive animals thought that it would encourage farmers to remove PIs from their herd (20% of respondents) and would also help protect the status of neighbouring farms (30% of respondents). By publishing the location details of virus positive animals, 20% of respondents felt that peer pressure and pride in their herd could be significant drivers that may persuade farmers into action to get rid of PI animals. Some respondents suggested that keepers had a right to know if there were PI animals in the vicinity of their own cattle. One respondent pointed out that it is easier to relate to the real risk of a known BVD positive holding than to an unknown or theoretical risk and the PI information would allow farmers to take precautions to protect their herd.
7% of respondents pointed out that the location details of a PI can already be accessed on ScotEID. However, under current arrangements a user would need to know their neighbour's CPH number to search for herd status information on ScotEID. One respondent raised the point that any list must be kept up to date. Others (6% of respondents) pointed out the importance of making the information clear and accessible.
3% of respondents felt that publishing location details of PIs would be "a step too far" at this stage of the eradication scheme. 9% of respondents were adamant that there should be a requirement to cull PIs rather than allowing them to be retained on farm.
Of those who were unsure if the location of PIs should be published, one was concerned that it may cause conflict in small communities. Another respondent commented that it could adversely affect livestock prices in the area, which could impact unfairly on BVD "negative" herds.
Question 23(a): If you answered yes to question 23, how long should cattle keepers be given between first disclosure of a virus positive animal and publication of its locations?
There was no consensus on the length of "amnesty" given to a keeper of a BVD positive animal before publishing the location details. Figure 26 summarises respondents' opinions on the delay prior to publication.
Figure 26: Opinion on time scale for publishing location of a virus positive animal
26% of respondents wanted to see publication either immediately or within a week of identification of a virus positive animal. 50% respondents supported in 4 weeks or less. 73% supported publication within 12 weeks of the first BVD positive result, to allow time to re-test to confirm or disprove the PI status of the animal, and for the results to be uploaded on ScotEID. One respondent felt that 24 weeks would allow sufficient time to either re-test or remove the animal from the herd. Of those who specified a time scale, many emphasised the importance of allowing time for a re-test, followed by removal if still BVD positive, before "naming and shaming". The underlying message was that allowing a short period of time would promote best practice amongst cattle keepers. 24% of respondents did not give a time scale.
Question 23(b): If you answered yes to question 21, what format would you like to see for publication of PI location?
Figure 27 shows the publication formats preferred by respondents. The question included some suggestions and many of the responses focused on these examples. The examples suggested in the question were a list of CPHs published on ScotEID, an interactive map and/or written notification to neighbours.
Figure 27: Opinion on publication format for location of PIs
Many of the respondents supported the publication of a PI location in several formats to reach as many interested parties as possible.
Most respondents agreed that written notification to neighbours was important as this group was at risk from "over the fence" contact with PIs, and should therefore be informed. They felt written notification would be the most effective in reaching at-risk neighbours. A couple of respondents added that written notification should also be extended to neighbours on shared holdings and away grazing. One respondent urged caution: written notification to neighbours should include advice on protecting their herd rather than being simply punitive.
Some respondents felt that an interactive map would allow farmers to identify areas that are high risk, which would be useful when considering new purchases. Another advantage identified was that an interactive map could further increase pressure on regions with multiple PIs. However, one comment highlighted the potential for a map to unfairly penalise BVD "negative" herds located in a high risk area.
Respondents recognised that a list of CPHs on ScotEID would be the most straight forward approach to take. One respondent thought that a list on ScotEID would allow keepers to check the location of PI animals while at the same time avoiding any inappropriate use of the information because ScotEID is only likely to be used by members of the cattle industry, not the wider public.
A number of respondents wanted a written notification to the farmer's private veterinary surgeon, while one respondent suggested that all local veterinary surgeons in the area are notified so they can proactively work with all cattle keepers in the locality to prevent the spread of BVD.