Disease control is vital to future of beef and dairy industry; Vet's view farming.
BOVINE Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) virus is widespread in the national herd with many farms showing evidence of infection, although vaccination is more common now than it was 10 years ago.
This virus is responsible for bovine viral diarrhoea, mucosal disease, poor conception and early embryonic death, foetal mummies, the birth of brain-damaged calves, eye defects in newborn calves and a lower resistance to other diseases. With this list of problems associated with the disease you would think it would be easy to diagnose. Well, unfortunately this is not always the case! Often other diseases cloud the picture, and although you often know the disease is present on a farm it is difficult to quantify the effect and the cost. Bulk milk testing on dairy farms or blood testing on beef farms have proven effective in demonstrating the presence of infection and probable persistently infected animals.
These persistently infected cattle are responsible for 27% of the loss attributed to this disease. Many of these animals are poor doers and will probably contract mucosal disease and die, but it is now known that some appear normal while excreting virus all their lives.
These animals represent a major source of infection within and between herds.
The most effective animals to blood test are home-bred heifers between nine and 15 months of age because if there is infection present they will show immunity in their blood.
Although this is complicated as persistently infected animals also show no immunity! BVD is the most important worldwide viral disease of bovines, in many other countries where eradication programmes are in place. This is not proving as easy as it seemed at first as there is a reservoir of infection in wild animals such as deer.
Four options are available to us; five if you count doing nothing, though this is not a sensible option.
1. If you don't have it, don't get it! This requires a lot of effort, money and good biosecurity (all cattle bought-in will need to be quarantined and tested).
2. Eradication. Even more expensive as it requires all parts of the above plus testing to find all persistently infected animals. These animals should then be removed from the herd.
3. Eradicate and vaccinate. This is appropriate where prevention of re-infection cannot be guaranteed, but the problem needs to be brought under control rapidly. This route may be applicable on some farms but most people will probably go with option 4.
4. Vaccination. When whole herd screening is not an option, susceptible animals such as breeding cows and replacement heifers can be vaccinated. This is especially appropriate where herd security cannot be guaranteed or the disease widespread. In this case it is also important to vaccinate bulls, as the infection can cause temporary infertility.
This disease causes production loss, something that cannot be accepted in the current economic climate. Control improves the general health of the herd, benefiting welfare and the farmers pocket.
Iain Carrington is with Intake Vets, Hexham