Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) is a disease of cattle that is still widespread in this country causing massive economic losses. It is estimated that 90% of herds have been exposed to BVD, with an estimated cost of £13-£31 per cow on farm.
Many countries throughout Europe have managed to eradicate the disease through national campaigns, but England is unfortunately behind the times with tackling this condition. However, the national campaign ‘BVD Free England’ is being rolled out. It is a farmer-led scheme designed to eliminate BVD virus from all cattle herds in the country by 2022. It will develop a national database, storing individual and herd test results for scheme members with an aim of proving freedom from BVD.
Despite its name, scouring is rarely seen in affected animals. The disease is largely spread by persistently infected (PI) animals. These are calves whose mothers were infected with the virus during a stage of pregnancy when the calf’s immune system was still being formed. Its immune system doesn’t recognise the virus as foreign, so will not try and fight it off. The calf is born excreting large amounts of virus throughout the rest of its live, further infecting the herd. Half of these calves are ‘poor do-ers’ and die in their first year of life, while others happily live a normal life and have calves of their own, which will also be a PI.
Active BVD infection on farm, mainly cause issues with fertility in the adult cows (re-absorptions and abortions) and poor health in calves and youngstock. BVD is immunosuppressive, so infected calves will be more prone to other diseases, such as pneumonia and scours.
Protection against BVD
There are vaccines available to protect against BVD, however these will not be sufficient to prevent infection if a PI is present in the herd. PI animals are easily identified by blood testing and should be removed from the herd immediately. Testing new born calves for the virus can also help identify and eliminate sources of infection. This can easily be done by ‘tagging and testing’ them. Animals that are bought in, should be bought from a herd with a BVD-free status, or should be tested before entering the herd, to ensure they are not persistently infected. BVD is highly infectious and is easily spread by nose to nose contact, making a robust biosecurity plan very important.
The BVD Free Scheme is FREE and completely voluntary. We strongly advise you join. You can do so online - https://bvdfree.org.uk/join-the-scheme/ or by downloading a form from the website. Alternatively ask one of the vets or reception staff. Eradicating BVD by joining this scheme won’t be any different for most people that already have a control protocol in place. The added bonus is that in the second year of joining, your herd will be recognised BVD Free if all the tests have come back negative. If testing individual animals for virus, these results will be uploaded and then visible and searchable on the database straight away. It is expected that cattle originating from BVD negative herds will fetch better prices when sold.
So, how does the BVD Free England Scheme work? You can read all about it on their website, but basically it uses the following steps:
Use ADAM to set up a control programme
- Assess the level of biosecurity and disease risk on farm
- Define the BVD status of a herd
- Action plan for control of BVD on the farm implemented
- Monitor progress
To define the BVD status, you will need to take blood samples (for BVD Antibodies) from 5-10 youngstock per management group (9-18 months of age) AND take a bulk milk for BVD Antibodies (from all cattle or 1st lactation cohort). A bulk milk BVD Antigen PCR may also be used.
Alternatively, you can ‘tag and test’ all youngstock born for a minimum of 2 years.
There is a minimal cost for uploading the lab results. This will pay for to the running cost of the database. For a youngstock screen and quarterly bulk milk tests, this will only be £7 per year.
Individual ‘Tag and Test’ results can be uploaded for 25p per animal. Some ear tag companies may cover this cost for you. Historic test results taken before the 1st of January 2017 can be uploaded for free!
Regular monitoring and having a proper plan in place for BVD and other infectious diseases is very important, so please chat to one of our farm vets and sign up to the BVD Free scheme asap!
OFFER: To encourage all our clients to join the scheme, if we are already out on farm, we will not charge you for our time or consumables to take a youngstock screen. The Lab cost for 10 animals will be around £50.
Meeting: We will be organising a meeting, where we will cover BVD (including the BVD Free Scheme), IBR & Lepto. We will also cover, how best to monitor, manage and control these diseases. For more details, please click the link - BVD, IBR & Lepto Meeting.
If you have any concerns about BVD, please call the practice and speak to a member of our Farm Team 01363 772860.