A major new initiative concerning one of the most devastating diseases affecting the cattle industry, BVD, Bovine Viral Diarrhoea - has been launched in England and Wales.
The campaign, Farming Against BVD, includes an independent survey which aims to gain a clearer insight into this complex, confusing disease by seeking the views of farmers in England and Wales.
An expert panel, headed by Professor Joe Brownlie (Royal Veterinary College and Chairman of the BVD Scientific and technical working group), will then come together to analyse the findings, using them to shape and drive an industry response.
“BVD is a costly and complex disease, spread by a pestivirus that affects the reproductive and immune systems,” says Professor Joe Brownlie.
“Persistently Infected (PI) animals are the main source of infection, but can be hard to identify without testing. Only total eradication will prevent the disease from spreading. Eradication Schemes in a number of European countries have already succeeded and Scotland and Ireland have embarked on similar schemes. The information being gathered will help the industry to develop a much needed scheme for England and Wales.”
The campaign has been initiated by Novartis Animal Health in partnership with key industry bodies, and results from the survey are due to be announced in the spring. Joining Professor Joe Brownlie on the expert panel will be Dr Peter Nettleton (Moredun Research Institute), Mansel Raymond (Dairy farmer and Chairman of the NFU Dairy Board), Caroline Dawson (Novartis Animal Health Veterinary Surgeon) and Paddy Gordon (Veterinary Practitioner).
Survey topics will include levels, and methods, of testing for BVD on farm, understanding of the role of PI animals and the financial impact of BVD on dairy and beef units. Farmers will also be asked who they look to for advice and how they view the role of vaccination.
“Countrywide eradication may not be achieved for a number of years, although individual farmers can control the disease on their own farms within 1-2 years, providing substantial cost benefits” says Caroline Dawson, Novartis Animal Health Veterinary Surgeon. “The purpose of this campaign is to encourage farmers to take action now against BVD. By working closely with their vets, identifying and removing PI animals, BVD can be removed. Ensuring adequate biosecurity and a robust vaccination policy will eliminate the risk of bringing BVD back onto the farm.”
“Understanding what farmers understand about BVD, particularly the role of the PI animal,” concludes Professor Brownlie, “will enable members of the panel, and the wider industry including Novartis and the BVD Stakeholder Group, to meet farmer needs more accurately. Greater awareness of the problem is vital - this is the only way that progress towards eradication will be made.”