Scottish government funds fight against animal disease

The Scottish cattle industry has received a major boost with the announcement of £1.3m of new funding to tackle two endemic diseases which create animal welfare issues and carry high economic costs for farmers.

A programme to eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea which is present in about 40% of cattle herds in Scotland was unveiled by the Scottish Government. And the Scottish Funding Council has awarded Scottish scientists £800,000 to pioneer ways of improving control methods for Johne’s Disease, another scourge of the beef and dairy sector.

The first phase of the BVD programme has attracted funding of £400,000 and rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead predicts that ridding the industry of the disease which causes abortion, infertility, failure to thrive and often death will generate an additional £50m to £80m over the next 10 years. For the average dairy business this will be worth £16,000 a year and around £2000 to the average beef business.

The first phase, which began on Monday 20 September, offers subsidised screening tests for farmers of breeding herds. The Scottish Government will subsidise testing in each herd by £36 and provide a further £72 for follow up tests and advice in positive herds. An annual testing requirement on all cattle herds will be introduced from September 2011 and, from September 2012, all cattle identified as Persistently Infected will need to be housed in secure facilities or slaughtered.

A final phase could see movement restrictions introduced on herds that failed to tackle their BVD problem.

Meanwhile the Scottish Agricultural College will use their £800,000 award for a Johne’s project which will use eight Scottish farms to identify the best and most cost-effective approach to controlling the bacterium which causes the infection. The study will investigate whether the current annual blood test is effective and how the disease is spread in the wider environment.

Announcing the project Professor George Gunn, head of SAC’s Epidemiology Unit in Inverness, said the project was a response to industry demands.

He added: “There is an increasing determination to understand how to tackle Johnes – which is also known as ParaTB – effectively, develop best practice and to pass that knowledge on. It is a disease with real economic, health and welfare concerns for the livestock industry and one the whole sector wants to address”.