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LAMMA 2021

LAMMA 2021

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.

Implementing a vaccination programme can reduce the chance of infection.
Implementing a vaccination programme can reduce the chance of infection.

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


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.


Hence, implementing a vaccination programme can reduce the chance of infection along with strict biosecurity measures, namely:

  • Keeping a closed herd or buying from known sources, ideally accredited or BVDFree registered herds.
  • Quarantining and testing any new animals.
  • 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.”

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Course of action

If a herd is positive for BVD, a course of action would be:



  • Identify and eliminate PIs
  • Protect pregnant cattle from infection to prevent more PIs being born
  • Avoid bringing in more virus


  • Tissue tag testing of all calves born, including abortions and stillbirths
  • Test any bulls
  • On a dairy farm bulk tank PCR along with testing any animals
    not contributing to the tank, for example dry cows/heifers/bulls


  • Vaccinate all breeding females and bulls, which protects pregnant cattle from potential biosecurity breaches
  • Full biosecurity review in herd health plan, including specific advice for high risk groups, must be robust and regularly reviewed
  • Surveillance testing, but need to be aware of what is being done if vaccinating and the possible effect on methods

The Scottish BVD eradication scheme

Scotland led the way in tackling BVD by setting up an eradication scheme in 2010. Initially, this was voluntary, with the Scottish Government subsidising testing for BVD. About 4,000 herds took advantage of this.


The second phase was mandatory, with all keepers of breeding cattle required to screen their herds for BVD by February 2013 and annually thereafter. Since then, further control measures around movement and sale declarations have been introduced.



Since the introduction of the scheme, the level of exposure to the disease has reduced from 40 per cent to 12 per cent of herds having a ‘not negative’ status. About 5,000 PI animals have been identified, and most of these are now dead.

Fiona Skeen, Berryhill Farm, Berwick-Upon-Tweed

Fiona Skeen, Berryhill Farm, Berwick-Upon-Tweed

Farming in the borders, Fiona Skeen is eligible to join the Scottish BVD eradication scheme, which she did four years ago. There has never been a case of BVD on-farm and Fiona had been testing for
and vaccinating against the disease for 10 years before deciding to become accredited.


Every year, five animals from each group of youngsters are blood tested between the age of nine and 12 months of age. Any which are being retained are vaccinated before they join the breeding herd at least six weeks prior to bulling and all cows are given a vaccination booster annually.


Fiona says: “Because we have used a live vaccine in the past, it is essential we blood test youngstock before we vaccinate.


“Aside from benefits to our own herd, it is much easier for us to be selling bulling heifers when we can confirm they are BVD-free.”

Schemes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland


The industry-led BVDFree England scheme was launched in July 2016 with the aim of eliminating the disease from cattle in England by 2022.


So far, 1,236 holdings have registered with an additional 394 CHeCS herds promoting their status through the database. This is about 9.2 per cent of the national breeding herd, with 59 holdings being assigned BVDFree Test Negative herd status since April 2018.


Since June 2018, £5.7 million of the Rural Development Programme funding has been made available to provide farmers with one year’s BVD testing. This pays for an initial vet visit, plus on-farm testing of youngstock to the value of £61.80, which also covers the upload cost.


The funding is available until the end of 2020. Farmers with positive results can apply for £440/holding to pay for a ‘PI hunt’, which involves bringing in the vet to address how best to tackle the problem.Eleanor Kane, project manager for BVDFree England, says: “The initial uptake has been slower than expected, but since the funding became available, we are seeing more interest and are focusing on promoting the scheme through vet practices.


“Feedback tells us that farmers want to see some market incentives around the scheme. Those who joined at the beginning and now, two years on, have BVDFree herd status are saying they are seeing the benefit when selling stock.”



This is an industry-led voluntary scheme to eradicate BVD in Wales, which was launched in September 2017 with £10m of funding from the Welsh Government’s Rural Development Programme, and is set to run for three years.


All beef and dairy farms in Wales are eligible for free blood testing of five animals from each group of cattle, which are between nine and 18 months of age, to be done at the same time as TB testing.


For farms with positive results, subsequent testing to identify PI animals will be supported to a maximum of £500, with farmers in the scheme expected to pay for any testing above this limit during the PI hunt, removing PIs and costs associated with protecting the farm from reinfection.


Prior to the scheme, 70 per cent of farms in Wales were thought to be BVD free. Now, with 7,000 of the 11,000 farms in the country having undertaken testing, the results appear to reflect this.



A voluntary scheme to eradicate BVD in Northern Ireland was set up in 2013, which became compulsory in 2016. For a time, farmers were given financial incentives for the removal of PI calves.


In February 2016, further movement and sale restrictions were introduced. In February 2017, the rolling 12-month animal prevalence of BVD was 0.66 per cent and, by September 2018, it had fallen to 0.49 per cent. During the same period, 12-month herd prevalence levels fell from 11.46 per cent to 7.52 per cent.

This article is part of a ‘Disease? Not On My Farm!’ series which showcases proactive beef and dairy farmers taking pride in their robust herd health and disease management approach.


This information was provided by MSD Animal Health, makers of Bovilis® BVD, Bovilis® IBR Marker Live, Bovilis® IBR Marker Inac, Leptavoid™ H, Rotavec® Corona, Halocur®, Bovilis® Bovipast RSP, Bovilis® Huskvac and Bovilis® Ringvac. Always use medicines responsibly. More information is available from Intervet UK Ltd trading as MSD Animal Health. Registered office Walton Manor, Walton, Milton Keynes MK7 7AJ, UK. Registered in England & Wales no. 946942. T: 01908 685 685 E: W:

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