Cattle farmers in England and Wales are at significant disadvantage to those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where testing new born calves for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) is mandatory. That's the view of Wiltshire beef farmer Jeremy Cottle, who is willing to share his bad experience so that others can avoid the same thing happening to them.
He keeps a 330 cow Limousin suckler herd at Manor Farm in Steeple Ashton in partnership with his father and brother, selling weaned calves at Frome market’s autumn calf sale. “Five years ago, we bought our annual replacements as in-calf heifers and sold their calves that autumn as usual," he explains." The following April, a purchaser contacted me to say one of the calves had subsequently died, with a post mortem indicating it was a persistently infected BVD carrier, known as a PI.
"Of course, we reimbursed the farmer the full price they had paid for the PI calf plus six months keep. As a supplier of high quality home-bred calves from pedigree sires, we rely on our good name and simply can’t afford bad publicity. Most of our calf buyers are regular customers whose loyalty we value."
"The financial loss arising from the PI calf and concern that it could happen again prompted us to take a new, proactive approach to BVD control. In consultation with our vet, we began vaccinating the cows, buying in vaccinated heifers only and have since introduced testing of all new born calves for BVD."
Within a week of birth, calves have a tissue sampling tag (TST) inserted in one ear, from
which the resulting tissue notch is analysed for BVD status. Results are available online within a week. According to Mr Cottle, TST tags are no different to apply than the standard ones.
“In addition to confirming every calf's status, each individual test result is automatically
uploaded to the bvdcheck.co.uk website, providing traceability to purchasers who can easily check the BVD status of our cattle,” he adds. "In addition to reassuring our customers, this gives us valuable peace of mind."
Allflex's Helen Sheppard explains that BVD can be present undetected in subclinically infected herds. "Considering the extensive cattle movements that take place, BVD-free herds are at significant risk of becoming infected without knowing until it's too late.
"Clearly, BVD testing of calves enables PIs to be identified and removed at birth and at relatively low cost, minimising the negative economic impact caused by disease associated losses. In England and Wales, we are seeing enlightened farmers like Jeremy Cottle deciding to test voluntarily rather than wait for testing to become compulsory UK wide.”
According to director of the National Beef Association John Hoskins, elimination of BVD is an achievable target for all UK producers. "I do believe that ear tag tissue testing for BVD is making it easier for farmers to eradicate this disease,” he adds.
Learn more about Tissue Sampling Tags (TST) here...
Downloadable version of this press release available here...