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Eradication schemes tackling BVD

Bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) is one of the biggest disease challenges facing the cattle industry, but national eradication schemes are starting to have an impact.

BVD has been estimated to cost £13-£31/cow in Britain, with the national total potentially as high as £61 million per year.

However, with eradication schemes now in place, along with campaigns to raise awareness about the consequences of having the disease on-farm, we are seeing more producers tackling the problem.

Image of a herd of dairy cows in a field

A key part of the schemes is the uploading of test results onto a database accessible to all. This gives any potential purchasers of cattle the confidence in knowing the status of holdings they are buying from and it enables sellers to potentially command a premium for stock. It also enables levels of disease to be monitored. Even if a herd does not have BVD, it could still be at risk of infection, mainly due to unknowingly buying-in persistently infected (PI) animals, infection from neighbouring farms or contact from infected animals at shows or markets.

Implementing a vaccination programme can reduce the chance of infection along with strict biosecurity measures, for example:

  1. Keeping a closed herd or buying from known sources, ideally accredited or BVDFree registered herds.
  2. Quarantining and testing any new animals.
  3. Being aware of buying in-calf animals. You can check the dam, but cannot be sure of the calf until it is born, so it needs to be tested even if the dam is clear.

Towcester Farm Vets has been proactive in encouraging its clients to test for BVD, as veterinary surgeon Nikki Moore explains: “We started offering to test for BVD at the same time as we did TB tests and had a good uptake.

Results were sometimes surprising, with some farms which we did not expect to have a problem testing positive and we also recognised the importance of testing annually, as a herd’s status did not necessarily stay the same.

Of the 90 herds we have tested over a five-year period, 17 have had a positive result and we have removed at least 30 PIs. We encourage vaccination of breeding cattle in addition to testing to provide a safety net to back up biosecurity measures.”