Is it now time to name and shame farm­ers over BVD?

The Oban Times - - Farming -

Given the huge com­mit­ment Scot­tish farm­ers are making to erad­i­cate BVD, NFU Scot­land vice-pres­i­dent GARY MITCHELL asks if it is time to name and shame those who risk Scot­land’s dis­ease-free plans.

LAST week, I met a Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial who was gath­er­ing ev­i­dence on my own ex­pe­ri­ence in tack­ling Bovine Vi­ral Di­ar­rhoea (BVD) on my farm which in­volved iden­ti­fy­ing any per­sis­tently in­fected an­i­mals (PIs).

I took the de­ci­sion to start tis­sue tag­ging more than three years ago as it is the only way to get the BVD sta­tus of ev­ery cow. In year one we had five or six pos­i­tive an­i­mals. In year two we had four or five pos­i­tives and in year three we had two or three pos­i­tive an­i­mals. If we re­main clear un­til Au­gust, then we will be one full year free of the dis­ease.

The ques­tion is: what will I do next? I can stop tis­sue tag­ging and move to blood tests on groups of young stock. How­ever, I am re­luc­tant to do this in the short term so I will con­tinue to tag at least un­til Jan­uary then re­view it. I want to be sure that ev­ery cow in the herd has had a live calf which has been tis­sue tagged in this time.

I wish oth­ers were as com­mit­ted.

I was shocked when it was re­vealed to me that, in Scot­land, there are 382 known PI an­i­mals. Wor­ry­ingly, 140 hold­ings have two or more and even more shock­ing is the fact that one hold­ing has 24.

Do these farm­ers un­der­stand this dis­ease? What on earth do their neigh­bours think?

I am a very simple per­son and this how BVD was ex­plained to me many years ago. When the calf is be­ing formed in the womb, there is a stage when the im­mune sys­tem must de­cide what is a good thing for the body and what is bad. If a cow is ex­posed to the BVD virus dur­ing this pe­riod, the cow will trans­mit it to the womb and the im­mune sys­tem will then take it as a good thing.

I have ex­pe­ri­enced this through my pre­vi­ous life as a calf rearer, buy­ing and rear­ing 1,000 calves from up to 30 farms per year.

If the av­er­age farm had one PI, I could have had a pen of 20 calves with two PIs. These calves would al­ways take pneu­mo­nia first then spread it, the same with scour, but I had no way of know­ing ex­actly which calves they were. And we all know that even good colostrum man­age­ment will not change im­mune sta­tus of a PI calf.

That prompts me to ask the ques­tion of fel­low farm­ers: if you have a PI, why are you keep­ing it?

If you are un­will­ing to re­move these an­i­mals, then, as an in­dus­try, we need all farm­ers to know just where these PIs are, be­cause they are putting a lot of good work at risk.

Us­ing ScotEID, you can check the sta­tus of neigh­bour­ing CPH hold­ing num­bers or of an in­di­vid­ual an­i­mal. You can look up the sta­tus of any CPH by go­ing to and click on ‘ BVD lookup’, en­ter­ing a CPH num­ber will tell you if that hold­ing is neg­a­tive, not-neg­a­tive or pos­i­tive (has a live PI on the hold­ing). It will also tell you the date of the last test on that hold­ing.

I would urge ev­ery­one to seek out in­for­ma­tion on the risks be­fore turn­ing out their breed­ing stock or send­ing breed­ing cat­tle away for sum­mer graz­ing.

Vets can also ac­cess PI in­for­ma­tion on be­half of their clients and more joined up work be­tween vets may help farm­ers with a proper BVD risk as­sess­ment be­fore mov­ing cat­tle to grass lets.

But is there a case for making that in­for­ma­tion on PIs more pub­licly avail­able to farm­ers?

While there may be a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of PI an­i­mals yet to be iden­ti­fied through our statu­tory test­ing re­quire­ments, the time, money and ef­fort put in to tack­ling BVD risks be­ing un­done by those who fail to get rid of known PI an­i­mals.

If Scot­land wants to de­mand a pre­mium on the food we pro­duce, we must al­ways be a step ahead of our com­peti­tors.

BVD erad­i­ca­tion would be a big win-win for the health and ef­fi­ciency of our cat­tle sec­tor but it needs the full com­mit­ment of all pro­duc­ers.

Gary Mitchell be­lies some farm­ers are not do­ing enough to erad­i­cate BVD.

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