Katie Scotter BA VetMB MRCVS
Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) is not a new disease, and how it affects cattle fertility and production is not new information, so why are we still battling with it?
BVD is a serious disease with major economic, health and welfare consequences. In adult cattle, it causes infertility, abortion and poor production. In youngstock, it causes immunosuppression which allows other diseases to take hold e.g. scour and pneumonia. As a result, it causes growth retardation and can also cause fatal mucosal disease in persistently infected individuals. The cost of disease is estimated to be between £13-31 per cow in the UK, costing the national herd an average £39.6 million per year.
Other countries in Europe have long eradicated BVD and have maintained a BVD free status for years, e.g. Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland. Those that have not yet eradicated BVD have at least got eradication programmes in place, and intend to achieve a BVD free status in the near future.
So what have we been doing in the UK and why are we so behind? Scotland have an eradication programme, BVD Free Scotland, which has been written into legislation since 2013. The scheme makes it compulsory to have a BVD status, and places movement restrictions and sale restrictions on herds with persistently infected animals. This is relevant because we also have an industry led scheme called BVD Free England. It has been running for 3 years and is a voluntary online database where herds can advertise their BVD status based on annual test results. There is a small fee to upload results onto the database, 50p per antibody result and 25p per antigen result. But ultimately to sign up to this scheme is very, very low cost, so why are we not taking advantage of it?
Why should we sign up? Firstly, it allows farms which are BVD Free to advertise that fact to buyers. As producers we should be proud that we have eradicated this disease on farm, and reassure buyers they are not buying infected animals. It allows buyers to be more informed about the BVD status of animals they buy.
Secondly, the national eradication programme in Scotland started out as a voluntary industry led scheme similar to BVD Free England. The likelihood is that BVD eradication will eventually be written into legislation in England too. Which means penalties and movement restrictions.
Thirdly, there is funding available to do so through the BVD Stamp It Out campaign. This campaign is funded by the Rural Development Programme for England and supported by DEFRA, Duchy College and SAC. The project aims to engage 50% of breeding cattle in England. If you haven’t already signed up, get in touch with your vet to access this funding and sign up for BVD Free England.
Lastly, BVD can have a huge impact on any cattle business. Whether that is a dairy, suckler herd, calf rearing or beef finishing unit. It is relatively easy to eradicate within 12 months through testing. And soon we will be forced into doing something about it.
So act now. Support this industry initiative and push to make England BVD Free.