Chief veterinary officer and the man who will drive through the campaign, Simon Hall, said yesterday "with a really energetic campaign we could see the back of this disease within four years".
The Shetland Isles have been free of the disease for almost the past 20 years and Orkney has a voluntary eradication scheme. On the mainland, a number of individual herds have been operating as BVD free as they are already operating voluntary eradication schemes
BVD is a wasting disease which can result in death but is also associated with outbreaks of pneumonia in young stock. Hall reckoned there could be between 2,000 and 4,000 cattle in Scotland acting as carriers for the disease.
These persistently infected animals, all of whom were infected in the womb, would be culled in the first voluntary phase of the eradication campaign. But while the overall numbers may not be huge, a study carried out by the Scottish Agricultural College showed persistently infected animals in one in six of all suckler herds. The survey also highlighted that two-fifths of Scottish dairy herds having evidence of recent exposure to the disease.
Beyond their economic value, farmers would get a 100 per head for any animal being removed at this stage.
The second stage of the eradication campaign would be compulsory and would require legislation to ensure compliance. At this stage any persistently infected animals would have to go straight to slaughter; compensation would be nominal at best, and screening tests would be mandatory.
Commenting on the proposal, rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said that eradicating BVD would deliver a major improvement in the competitiveness and welfare standards of cattle herds in Scotland. "We have already successfully kept bluetongue and foot-and-mouth out of Scotland, and last year we became officially TB free and had no BSE cases. BVD is next," he said.
Lochhead wanted a strong response to the consultation from the industry. "This scheme can only work if there is clear demand from the industry."
Far from costing the country, he believed eradication could be worth between 50 million and 80m in increased output and reduced business costs over the next ten years.
The scheme would take into account existing trade patterns with other parts of the UK through provision for quarantine and testing of animals of unknown status moving to Scotland.