The fourth annual BVD survey saw a record number of 1,243 farmers respond.
Hannah Noble takes a look at the recently released results, which give a flavour of how the disease is being handled across the UK.
Results from the BVD survey suggest while there is an increased awareness of the disease, there is still a proportion of farmers who are unsure if they have, or have had, BVD in their herd.
Matt Yarnall, of Boehringer Ingleheim, organiser of the survey, says only one-fifth of farmers surveyed knew if they had an active infection.
Mr Yarnall says in the UK there seems to be a problem with the perception of what defines a closed herd.
Of the 62 per cent of English farmers surveyed who said they ran a closed herd, 19 per cent bought-in bulls, 2 per cent reared calves away from the farm, 1 per cent purchased stock to fatten and 2 per cent bought-in heifers or cows.
This was a similar picture in Wales too, which has a similar programme of eradication to England, with 65 per cent of farmers claiming to have closed herds, but in fact 12 per cent still brought bulls onto the farm.
In Northern Ireland, 60 per cent classed themselves as closed herds, but 20 per cent brought bulls onto the unit.
In Scotland, where there is also a mandatory eradication scheme in place, there were also some inconsistencies with cattle entering closed herds.
Mr Yarnall says: “Obviously, this means they are not truly a closed herd. Add to this the fact that 10 per cent of these herds do not vaccinate against the BVD virus and it is clear to see how vulnerable they are.”
OVER the four years of the survey, there has been an increase in popularity of the tag and test method of BVD identification; in Scotland 44 per cent of producers were opting for this method.
This allows PI animals to be quickly removed from the herd, but it requires the tagging of all calves born in the herd, including dead and aborted calves, and the survey revealed 56 per cent of producers only tag live calves.
In England, the proportion of farmers using tag and test has risen from 27 per cent in 2018 to 33 per cent, and only 42 per cent were tagging all animals born dead or alive. Blood testing was found to be the favoured method in Wales.
Mr Yarnall says: “Without a belt and braces approach to testing, surveillance, biosecurity practice and vaccination, herds will not be fully protected.”
THE survey also highlighted too many farmers were knowingly keeping persistently infected (PI) cattle in the herd.
Of the respondents, 44 per cent of farmers in Wales had identified a PI in their herd and 42 per cent of them did not cull them immediately.
Instead they were retained, spreading virus around the herd.
This was similar in Northern Ireland, where 26 producers said they had retained a confirmed PI animal. But Mr Yarnall says the data revealed 20 of these animals had to be put down before reaching adulthood or had to be treated for other health conditions.
This was due to many reasons, including genetic merit or the genetic line of the animal, a healthy appearance, being doubtful of the result, or historically having successfully managed to raise a PI to slaughter age.
THE survey revealed that of the 491 English producers who contributed, only 216 of them were aware the ‘Stamp it Out’ initiative offers free BVD testing and veterinary support and were planning to make use of it.
However, in Wales, an estimated 20 per cent of herds are infected with BVD and the rollout of the voluntary Welsh BVD eradication scheme in July 2017 has seen 50 per cent of Welsh herds tested, according to Gwaredu BVD.
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