Reduced levels of BVD coupled with improved herd fertility were the most commonly selected responses in Scotland to the third National disease survey.

The survey, which took place in January, attracted more responses than ever before with more than 1200 completed forms from beef and dairy farmers across the UK. Beef farmers made up 44% of respondents and dairy producers 56%.

English farmers provided the greatest reponse with 488 followed by 330 from Scotland; 237 from Northern Ireland and 164 from Wales. This year’s survey was the first to reflect each of the national BVD eradication programmes.

Looking at the responses from Scotland where the BVD eradication programme began with the non-compulsory phase in September 2010, Matt Yarnall from Boehringer Ingelheim, who co-ordinated the project, said the results had been quite mixed.

“Just under half of the respondents said they perceived no health benefits in their herd of controlling BVD. This would tally with the proportion that weren’t exposed to BVD before the programme began.

“Of those who said they did see a benefit, the most commonly selected response (by around a third of the sample) was decreased levels of disease in calves. This was closely followed by improved herd fertility,” Mr Yarnall adds.

In Scotland, where a proportion of the youngstock cohort can be blood tested to assess BVD status, it was interesting to see that two thirds of farmers tested five or 10 animals per year following discussion with their vet, again highlighting the low cost of achieving freedom from BVD.

The 2017 survey data showed that 71% of users of the BVD vaccine that requires a six-monthly booster were inadequately protecting their animals by failing to administer boosters at the right time.

“In light of this, it is perhaps cause for alarm that this year 85% of farmers haven’t restarted a vaccination course when the majority should have done,” he said (See graph).

“This can be a costly exercise and to alleviate this issue, many vets now favour the use of the one-shot, annual BVD vaccine Bovela® . Not only proven to provide 12 months’ foetal protection, the vaccine has a simple annual booster regime, meaning there isn’t the same worry of missing a booster,” added Mr Yarnall.

South of the Border, he pointed out that the retention of PIs (persistently infected animals) seems to be one of the main areas of concern, with a large number of farmers saying that they regret holding onto PIs, which no-one should be doing.

“PIs are a reservoir of infection never maturing as they should, and also shed virus throughout their lives infecting herdmates.

“Although the numbers were small, producers in all parts of the UK still said that they try to rear PIs to slaughter or sell them, which could go some way to explain how come BVD breakdowns are still occurring.”

Undertaking tag testing and investing in a BVD vaccine costs less than £10 per cow per year. With the financial benefit of being free of BVD being more than £90 per cow per year the return on investment can be significant.