BVD - looking to the future

Some 40% of UK herds are estimated to have been exposed to Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), and 10% have active cases. With all herds vulnerable, what is being done to tackle this disease?

Bill Mellor, vice chairman, NFU livestock boardThe BVD stakeholder group was set up with RDPE funding, with the stated aim of mapping the incidence of BVD across the country and ensuring that a consistent message is delivered to farmers, vets and industry stakeholders. The group has been working with academics, including the Royal Veterinary College, and is now looking to the future and the need for a "joined up" approach.

Many farmers have realised the importance of BVD to the productivity of their herd, and since it is neither a notifiable disease nor zoonotic disease, it is not a target for government funding.

Despite this, the impact on profitability means that individuals have been setting up their own surveillance, vaccination and screening programmes on their own farms. But moving forward this patchwork will not be enough and a farmer-led initiative for England will be needed.

Bill Mellor, NFU livestock board vice-chairman, and chairman of the BVD stakeholder group, has learnt from personal experience how costly BVD can be to a herd, having dealt with it in his own Simmental herd.

"Our stakeholder group has an advisory function; what we need now is a board or body which can implement the necessary changes. The impetus must come from within the industry," he said.

"I believe that there is an increasing recognition of the dangers that Persistently Infected (PI) animals pose to a business, and the true costs of this disease. What is now needed is for a board or body to implement the necessary changes and oversee an eradication program.

"We have the advantage of being an island and if other countries can achieve success, then it should be possible here. I believe that this would be an excellent priority for future RDPE funding-the will, knowledge and experience is there, all that is needed is the funds to get it moving."


Case Studies

What is BVD?

  • BVD is a viral infection, spread via contact with an infected animal, it can also be transferred in semen from infected bulls.
  • Infection with BVD normally lasts 2-3 weeks, and can cause abortion and malformed calves – it is immunosuppressive resulting in ill thrift, malformed calves, scours, pneumonia and poor response to treatments. After an infection, cattle will be immune and antibodies to BVD can be detected.
  • If a cow is infected in the first third of pregnancy, then whilst she will suffer an acute infection lasting 2-3 weeks and recover and be immune, the calf she carries will be Persistently Infected (PI).
  • A PI animal can appear identical to a healthy one, although they often fail to thrive. These PI animals shed virus and spread it to the entire herd if they are not detected and culled.
  • Removal of PI cattle and preventing contact with PI animals is the key to controlling BVD, along with an effective screening and testing program.
  • Vaccines are available, however a PI animal will still be infectious even if vaccinated so disease can still occur on your farm.




For more information, please contact the national BVD control programme at YWN0aW9uQGJ2ZGNvbnRyb2wuY28udWs=, on 01765 608489, or visit their website here

A leaflet on BVD is available from the BVD stakeholder group here

A flow chart on eradicating BVD is available here

For a specific case study on a 320 cow milking herd, click here