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NWF backing BVD free England

On July 1st 2016, the first national Bovine Viral Diarrhoea eradication scheme will be launched in England.

Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland already have national schemes in place, with Wales apparently not far away from launching their own control programme. BVDFree England will launch with the objective of achieving the elimination of the BVD virus from all cattle herds in England by 2022.

You may ask why these countries are taking BVD so seriously, given that there are plenty of other diseases that affect cattle health and production? ‘One of the key reasons our close neighbours have already implemented national eradication schemes and others, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, have already managed to eradicate BVD from their cattle herds, is that we have an intricate understanding of the disease and its economic effects in combination with excellent lab tests’ states Dr Richard Booth, BVD expert and technical advisor on the BVDFree scheme. ‘This makes eradication through the identification and removal of animals persistently infected (PI) with BVD a real possibility. BVD virus elimination can be achieved; it has been done already elsewhere and we should be working towards this in England, starting now.’

But is BVD something you should be worried about on your farm? Indeed, it’s often hard to relate to some of the huge figures quoted for how much BVD costs the nation – estimated at £39.1 million per year. But when those figures start to get broken down to the cost per affected cow, between £30 and £40, that is when you might start to sit up and take notice.

How can you tell if BVD is affecting your herd? Despite the fact that BVD can often be present in a herd without obvious signs, the effects of this disease have been well documented. It is not until you start to look for BVD through testing (blood, tissue, milk ,) that you recognise it might be the reason for the following issues in the herd:

  • Reproductive losses – early embryonic death, returns to service, abortions
  • Secondary disease – immune suppression increases the chances of pneumonia and scour in calves, lameness and mastitis in adults
  • Poor production – lower milk yield, poor growth rates, increased cull rates
  • Deaths – commonly through secondary infection

Joining up to the scheme offers several advantages, for both beef and dairy farmers. Being able to check the BVD status of animals before purchase means that the virus won’t be brought back on to the farm. Achieving a ‘BVD free’ herd status can be used as a point of differentiation in the market. Direct and indirect costs associated with BVD infection will also be eliminated, improving profitability.

BVDFree is an industry-led scheme and has the support of over 60 organisations in the cattle industry. These include breed societies, livestock auctioneers, vets and farming organisations. From the 1st July you can find more information on the scheme and how to join by visiting

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