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The move to eradicate BVD

Charlie Carslake BA BVSc MRCVS, Molecare Veterinary Services


Why eradicate BVD?

Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) is one of the most serious contagious diseases in cattle. It is estimated to cost the UK industry as much as £61 million per year, a cost that equates to £31 per cow in Great Britain.

Bovine Viral Diarrhoea results in reproductive losses, immune suppression, poor production and deaths. These signs are non-specific and therefore not always obvious – farms that are not taking active steps to test and control BVD are bearing the brunt of this cost. Although small in comparison to the losses caused by Bovine Viral Diarrhoea infection the costs we associate with control are still significant. For example eradicating BVD might eliminate the need to vaccinate.

The disease is well understood and excellent tests exist. Unlike Bovine TB, the wildlife reservoir is negligible. Many countries have already eradicated BVD and an initiative is underway to rid the UK of this disease.

How does the testing work?

Many of you will already be testing. Testing seeks to identify Persistently Infected animals (PIs). These are animals that have been infected as an unborn calf and, once born, shed huge quantities of the BVD virus in their environment causing health problems in susceptible contacts. PIs are the main source of infection for other cattle. Removing them goes a long way to eradicating BVD from your herd.

If you are not already doing so it is essential to consult your vet to discuss the best way of testing for BVD in your herd. Antibody tests (that look for exposure) and antigen tests (that look for individual PIs) are both very effective. Testing will often involve a combination of both.

What is BVDFree England?

As you might be aware BVDFree England is a farmer led initiative that is leading the campaign to eradicate BVD. Essentially, it is a national database where participating farmers can state their commitment towards eradicating Bovine Viral Diarrhoea and register their test results making them available to potential buyers. For more information have a look at their website: www.bvdfree.org.uk

Should I sign up?

Eradicating BVD would be a major step forward for the industry. It will improve the health, welfare and productivity of England’s livestock whilst reducing antibiotic usage and BVD vaccine costs.
There is a charge to upload results to the database. It is currently 25p for each antigen test and 50p for each antibody test. Once you register with BVDFree England, a herd status will be assigned after two years of testing under the scheme. It is worth knowing that in Scotland a similar scheme has become compulsory with movement restrictions applying to non-testing and ‘not negative’ herds.

By joining BVDFree farmers can show their commitment to helping the national cattle herd become free from BVD. We would encourage clients who are keen to sign up to speak to their vet.

For more information phone Molecare Vets on 01392 872934.

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