Disease? Not On My Farm! Ambassador Blog
How can dairy farmers control IBR?
Case study – Robert Gratton
A proactive disease control plan has helped Derbyshire farmer Robert Gratton to establish a high health status in his growing dairy herd.
Here he explains how the Gratton family worked closely with their vets to prioritise disease monitoring and implement an IBR vaccination programme.
In September 2019, we made the initial purchase of 40 dairy cows, to farm alongside our two beef herds, just outside of Buxton.
Having set the dairy herd up on a third farm, I was keen to focus on developing a good relationship with our vet Anne-Marie Fitzgerald, of Overdale Vets
Improving herd health
We started having routine fertility visits from Anne-Marie that autumn, but by the New Year we were aware that our dairy herd's fertility performance wasn’t where it should be.
Fewer cows were getting in calf, and Anne-Marie suggested that this could be a sign of an underlying IBR issue.
To help us pinpoint the cause, she ran a bulk milk antibody test, which showed that the cows had been exposed to the virus. As only a quarter of them had been bred by the seller, we didn’t know if they had been vaccinated or infected.
So, we started vaccinating to help control IBR and protect herd health.
Signs of IBR in the dairy herd
We didn’t see any clinical signs of IBR. We decided to start vaccinating quickly so the virus did not have chance to become established within the herd, and we did not see any overt clinical signs such as respiratory issues and milk drop.
In the past we’ve had a problem with sick calves on our beef unit and spent a fortune trying to get it right. We try to calve a bigger proportion of the dairy herd in the autumn, but that can bring extra respiratory challenges to calves because of the weather.
They are now all vaccinated with an intranasal vaccine, as are our dairy replacements. Since starting that we have had a large reduction in clinical signs of respiratory disease.
How vaccination helps to control IBR
Our milking herd, which now stands at 85 cows, was given an initial dose of Bovilis® IBR Marker Live. Following that, they transitioned to an inactivated vaccine, Bovilis® IBR Marker inac, given every six months.
We’re moving towards a closed herd by breeding our own replacements, but while heifers are in the pipeline and the herd expands, we do have to source some replacements.
To prevent bringing disease in, I try to buy in from herds that already have an IBR vaccination policy in place. Once they join our herd they start on our protocol.
Alongside our vaccination and purchasing policies, our vet, Anne-Marie, carries out routine bulk milk screens to check the level of exposure across the herd.
Through working closely with the vet practice and adopting a proactive approach from the start, we’ve been able to maintain a high health status across the growing dairy herd and the two beef herds.
Bovilis® IBR Marker Live contains live bovine herpesvirus and is indicated for the active immunisation of cattle to reduce the intensity and duration of the clinical respiratory signs induced by an infection with BHV-1 and to reduce nasal excretion of field virus. POM-V.
Bovilis® IBR Marker inac contains inactivated bovine herpesvirus and is indicated for the active immunisation of cattle to reduce the intensity and duration of clinical signs (pyrexia) induced by an infection with BHV-1 as well as to reduce the replication and nasal excretion of the field virus. POM-V.
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