Order on bovine diarrhoea

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The government’s agriculture chiefs are bringing forward a Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Order (BVD Order) to control the prevalence of BVD infection, with the aim of eradicating the disease in the medium term.

BVD is a commonly-occurring disease, which has serious financial implications for cattle producers and dairy herds.

Calculations by the Department of Environment Food and Agriculture have indicated that total direct and indirect losses due to this disease amount to around £750,000 per year within the Isle of Man national herd.

With the average dairy herd losing £13,500 a year and the average beef herd losing £4,600 a year.

The new order follows the success of the 2013 BVD control strategy, where calves born on the island were voluntarily tested for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea using a special official ear tag provided by the department: this ear tag takes a tissue sample that is submitted for laboratory analysis allowing detection and removal of Persistently Infected (PI) animals.

The results from the 2013 strategy are:

· 66 per cent of holdings that breed cattle have joined the voluntary tagging scheme (138 of 208 holdings)

· 7,150 calves have been officially registered and tested

· 80.2 per cent of all calves born this year have been tested for BVD using the special tags

· Only 55 persistently infected (PI) calves (0.76% of calves tested) have been identified so far on 14 different holdings (as at 31st December 2013)

The Minister for DEFA, Phil Gawne, MHK said: ‘This is very good news. The low number of holdings with PI calves demonstrated by the voluntary scheme has given us the opportunity to move on to an eradication strategy. I am very encouraged by the industry’s strong support for these disease control measures. The views expressed to me by the industry, continue to reflect the high level of voluntary take up.’

Government Veterinary Officer Richard Ashworth MRCVS added: ‘We are pleasantly surprised with the current results, the number of holdings with PI calves is less than expected; although we recognise that not all calves born on the Island are included in the voluntary scheme. However, this current situation brings with it the need to be vigilant and prevent BVD from entering the majority of farms that are fortunate enough to have little active disease.

Now that many farms have identified PIs, and hopefully removed them, we are moving to the next phase, which will identify any remaining adult PIs.

Chief Veterinary Officer Stuart Jaques MRCVS said: ‘I urge all farmers to actively consider taking precautions against introducing or spreading BVD. Please make it an important part of herd health planning.

‘Our further investigations have shown that at least two cows purchased when already pregnant, brought BVD with them, because the calf born to them was shown to be persistently infected (PI) by the tag test.

‘These positive calves (PIs) are the primary means of sustaining the disease, so we need to identify them as soon as possible. Equally importantly, please keep bought in “in calf” animals away from home bred cows and heifers less than 120 days pregnant; this is the critical period when PI calves are created. Only when purchased animals calve and their calf is tested negative should they be mixed with pregnant animals.

‘We also see strong circumstantial evidence of the movement of bulls being related to multiple PI births later. This is unsurprising as the movement of animals of unknown BVD status will increase the risk of disease. As a result the new order requires breeding bulls to be proven not to be PI before moving.”

The department’s animal health division has produced a factsheet on BVD that will answer many questions. To see it click here.

For more information email agriculture@gov.im or phone 685844.

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