RECENT evidence of animals infected with BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhoea) being kept within herds in Northern Ireland demonstrates the need to continue raising awareness and promote understanding of the highly contagious disease, according to MSD Animal Health.
“The industry-led scheme to eradicate BVD from Northern Ireland has been supported by legislation since 2016, and while this has been an important step in trying to get the disease under control, the message is still not getting through clearly enough,” said Sarah Campbell, Technical Advisor for MSD Animal Health.
“Dr Sam Strain of Animal Health and Welfare NI recently estimated that as many as 950 persistently infected (PI) animals are being kept in Northern Ireland at any one time. He also estimated that the retention rate was currently around 60 per cent. These are extremely worrying figures for the industry and are in stark contrast to the situation in the Republic of Ireland, where BVD prevalence has been reduced by 84 per cent since 2013 and only 53 PI animals were found to be still alive at the end of 2017.
“BVD costs our farming industry millions of pounds each year. In the Republic of Ireland, Animal Health Ireland has estimated that the reduction in prevalence of BVD has generated a net benefit to the industry in 2017 alone of €75 million, relative to the position before its eradication programme commenced. With better compliance and increased collaboration, the industry has the potential to make huge savings here.
“Annual vaccination, combined with identification and removal of PI animals, good biosecurity and ongoing monitoring, is crucial in controlling BVD. It makes economic sense for farmers to remove infected animals immediately, as the impact of a BVD outbreak can be devastating,” continued Sarah.
BVD is a highly contagious viral infection of cattle which causes a range of clinical problems. Most infected animals do not survive to a productive age and it currently affects more than eight per cent of cattle herds in Northern Ireland. Signs of the disease include fertility problems such as abortions and birth defects, scour and reduced milk yield. The animals’ immunity is also depressed resulting in increased incidence of other diseases such as pneumonia, mastitis and lameness as well as poor response to treatment.
“The control of BVD revolves around the four pillars of PI identification and elimination, biosecurity, vaccination and monitoring.
“The most effective approach is one which removes PI animals whilst providing immunity to naïve dams to prevent further PI births.
“As farmers remove PI animals their herd will gradually become naïve to BVD infection. Vaccination of breeding stock with Bovilis BVD prior to service provides immunity and peace of mind,” Sarah concluded.