Just four months on from when Farmers Weekly launched the formation of an industry partnership aimed at eradication BVD in the UK, some 70 farmers have signed up and have begun the testing process.

Following the success of BVD control and eradicating programmes in several European countries, as well as the Shetland and Orkney islands, a similar programme is well under way in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The results of which will be used as a pilot programme for wider use in the UK, explains Prof Joe Brownlie who is heading up the National Strategy Group committee. “Off the back of the Norfolk and Suffolk group, we have also launched pilot programmes in the south west and Scotland, totalling some 130 farmers registering an interest in eradicating BVD.

“Many farmers don’t realise their herds are infected with BVD, combined with the fact that those not infected may be at significant risk of becoming so with potentially disastrous consequences,” he explains.

Fortunately, with reliable tests available to identify PIs, BVD control and eradication is relevant for any farm whether the disease is present or not, adds Prof Brownlie.

‘Needs protection’

“Even if a herd is uninfected, it needs protection, as introduction of BVD in to a herd that hasn’t been previously exposed to BVD could be disastrous. As more herds become clear of infection, protection becomes easier, as risk of infection reduces.”

Prof Brownlie says it was expected that 30 farmers, predominantly dairy, would join up to the East Anglian programme, but they have since surpassed that with almost 70 on board.

“We’ve appointed SAC as a lab provider for testing and with some support from EBLEX and Holstein UK, we have since begun the testing process.”

Initial screening has been positive, with the majority of herds tested having no active BVD present, thereby allowing them early access to being accredited BVD-free, a further monitoring test within a year of initial testing is required for those farms to acquire full accreditation.

The Somerset programme – based around the Shepton Veterinary Group in Shepton Mallet and the Kingfisher practice at Crewkerne – is part of a DEFRA-funded research project alongside the Royal Vet College. Here, a cluster of 20 dairy and beef farms have enabled us to establish a small focus group of BVD-free farms, as well as identifying the contiguous farms within that cluster that may be persuaded to join the scheme, explains programme facilitator and vet Paddy Gordon.

“With the initial testing and vet cost involved with eradication, it’s a huge ask for these producers, but the increased awareness of the disease and biosecurity issues is really paying off.”

IDENTIFYING INFECTED ANIMALS
  • BVD spreads by persistently infected (PI) animals. These are calves born with BVD because their mother was exposed to the disease during pregnancy. The virus then passes to the unborn calf.
  • The calf may live for years without showing signs of disease, but carries huge amounts of the virus, putting the rest of the herd at severe risk. Control of BVD, therefore, depends on identification and removal of PI’s.
  • For further details on either the Norfolk and Suffolk, Somerset or Scotland eradication programmes contact Lisa Harber on 01707 666 323 or email jbrownlie@rvc.ac.uk