As Scotland declares that BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhoea) figures are dramatically on the decline, an industry initiative is pushing Cumbria to be the next place to conquer the disease. Alex Robinson reports from a recent BVDFree event.
Described by Kath Aplin, cattle veterinary adviser at Boehringher Ingelheim as a ‘hidden’ disease, BVD can be extremely problematic for farmers if left to circulate around a herd. Some infected animals can not show any visual symptoms, but presence of the virus is likely to increase the frequency and severity of other general diseases, especially those prevalent in young stock such as pneumonia and calf scour.
While mature cattle can fight off infection in a matter of weeks, it is pregnant cows and heifers which are most at risk.
Ms Aplin said: “If a pregnant cow contracts BVD, the developing foetus is at risk of becoming a permanently infected (PI) animal, meaning the virus becomes part of the unborn calf’s’ makeup. From birth, PI’s spread BVD at alarming rates, and while they can often appear perfectly healthy on eye, around 70 per cent die in the first two years of life. Therefore, advice is geared towards eradicating any PI’s before they have a chance to infect any more in-calf stock”.
The BVDFree scheme was launched in July 2016, and is an industry-led initiative, backed by 102 relative organisations, including AHDB and Paragon.
Derek Armstrong, lead veterinary science expert at AHDB urged farmers to take action and make efforts to eradicate BVD for the next generation of producers.
Mr Armstrong said: “It is relatively easy to remove BVD from your herd, by testing and culling as necessary, and taking extra care when buying and mixing cattle.
Vaccination is effective if the intervals between each the primary course and boosters are observed correctly. There are several options on the market and some vaccines only require one shot which can be make the whole process easier. It is important to vaccinate the heifers and cow a minimum of two weeks before they go the bull”.
“We are trying to encourage farmers to take the ‘assess, define, action and monitor’ approach, as a step by step way of staying BVD free”.
ASSESS risks on farm - most un-vaccinated cattle are at risk to BVD, whether this is spread directly or indirectly. Assessing if the problem lies on-farm, or if there are any gaps in biosecurity will help farmers create a suitable plan for their situation.
DEFINE herd status – Tag testing for PI calves or blood sampling the main herd to see if any animals have been exposed to BVD.
ACTION plan – creating a plan to complement the test results. If there is a positive test, eradicate the PI’s, if negative, ensure adequate biosecurity is in place and vaccinations are given if there are any gaps.
MONITOR – stay BVD free by maintaining vaccinations and tag testing all calves.
The ultimate aim of the BVDFree scheme is to completely eliminate the disease from England by 2022, a goal which Eleanor Kane, herd health project manager at AHDB, thinks is definitely feasible with the right strategy.
Miss Kane said: “Joining the scheme is completely free, and the testing costs a fraction of what the benefits of a BVD free status can mean for producers. Testing can be done in one of two ways, either testing five animals in the herd for antibodies, or calf tagging new stock. Calf tagging tests specifically for the PI’s, whereas blood testing gives farmers an indication if their animals have been exposed to the virus at any point. If blood testing, it important all sample cattle are aged between nine and 18 months old”.
After maintaining a BVD free farm for two consecutive years, producers are invited register on the AHDB database, to certify their disease-free herd status.
Ms Kane continues: “Becoming BVD free not only improves the welfare and health of the animals, which will guarantee maximum performance, but also gives consumers necessary confidence as it is likely a virus free farm will use fewer antibiotics and perhaps soon farmers will be able to charge a premium for the health status of their herd. The farming community must come together to achieve the ultimate aim of making the UK BVD free”.
|Breeding PI calves on farm||
|Buying in PI calves||
|Contact with ‘over the fence’ infection||