Orkney is made up of a main island with smaller islands to the north and south. Farming land is green and fertile, but our winters are long, with most of the cattle here being housed at the end of October to the beginning of May. Agriculture is one of the main industries along with fishing and tourism.
OLA is a farmer led health scheme for Orkney farmers and is the largest of HI Health's sub groups. It was launched on 01 February 2001 with a programme to eradicate BVD from Orkney's cattle herds. You may think that it is easier for us to eradicate disease being in an island situation but Orkney has the highest density of cattle in Europe with approximately 30,000 suckler and dairy cows, so it is literally wall to wall cattle with most boundaries consisting of barbed wire and fencing posts. Orkney Islands Council gave financial assistance towards the laboratory testing of infected herds from 2001 to 2004. Over 45% of herds showed evidence or recent exposure to the disease and although it has not been eradicated completely yet, the incidence is well below 5%.
The first ever sale of BVD known status cattle in Britain took place in Orkney Auction Mart in April 2002 and these sales have increased over the years. Today, almost all breeding stock sold have accredited status.
In 2005 we were awarded the contract to administrate our parent company HI Health Ltd which was Scotland's largest and only farmer led cattle health scheme. This was a great success with an increase in membership from farmers throughout Scotland following lots of promotional meetings and visits. HI Health was voted “Animal Health Provider of the Year” at the Scottish Farmer Agricultural Supplier Awards in 2007.
In 2005 Biobest were awarded the contract to do all the laboratory testing for OLA and HI Health. Biobest had a cattle health scheme called “Herdcare” that covered the whole of the UK, so in 2011 HI Health and Herdcare merged to form “HiHealth Herdcare”. OLA is part of HiHealth Herdcare so members of OLA are automatically members of this. The merger has resulted in better value membership fees and very competitive test rates.
On 01 November 2008 the OLA Johne's eradication scheme was launched. Due to our ongoing success with the BVD scheme, Orkney Islands Council agreed to pay all laboratory fees for the next three years, with the potential cost of £120,000 per year. We are truly grateful for the support our local authority has provided.
OLA is a non-profit making company. All the financial assistance received from Orkney Islands Council went direct to the OLA member with none being retained by the organisation.
The OLA office is manned by Karen Tait from Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm except during holidays and during her attendance at meetings and events elsewhere.
Member support is also available from Biobest from Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on 0131 440 2628
Chairman – William Harcus, Quanterness, St Ola Vice Chairman – David Scarth, Twatt Farm, Birsay. Company Secretary - Karen Tait, Unit 7, Orkney Auction Mart, Kirkwall
Alistair Foubister, Netherton, Holm; George Rouse, Littlequoy, Burray; George Brown, Colligarth, Sanday; Phyllis Harcus, Messigate, Tankerness; Richard Herdman, Linday, Sandwick.
Previous Chairs – Alistair Foubister, Netherton, Holm; Michael Cursiter, Arwick, Evie
OLA will be forever grateful to the contributions made to the organisation by the late Dr Sandy Clark who passed away in December 2009 and local vet Iain McCulloch who passed away in March 2013