Support for ‘BVD Free’ at annual event - Veterinary Practice
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Support for ‘BVD Free’ at annual event

Richard Gard reports from this year’s Livestock Event, at which an initiative to rid the UK of BVD was launched, along with the latest facts and figures for farmers and the livestock industry

ONE OF THE FIRST ITEMS TO CATCH THE EYE at this year’s Livestock Event, when walking towards the show from the car park, was a large poster promoting the Meat Machine.

This was surrounded by large pieces of bright machinery for feeding, harvesting, seeding and general farm development. If thoughts turned to advanced genetics, to convert beans into meat, the reality is that the Meat Machine is a bull. Utilising eye catching marketing techniques was a theme of this event.

On the day the Minister, George Eustice, was unsure of the political future but made a couple of points that may prove to be useful. In his view the Food and Farming Plan would be reviewed in the light of Brexit and the UK would be in a position to adopt science-based policies free of EU legislation.

He also stated that DEFRA would aim to protect food security and farm profitability. The thrust would be to adopt a risk management approach.

Make of these comments what you will, but the promotion of risk management recurs repeatedly. If anyone is looking for a career development, then this topic appears to have a bright future.

Over 90 organisations have signed up to support BVD Free England. This includes all the great and the good with veterinary organisations at the fore. It would be difficult to leave the show without a green sticker and if you lingered near the BVD Free England stand you were likely to be Tweeted standing next to someone wearing the appropriate T-shirt. Be prepared for a batch of photos showing farmers, vets and others in suitable cattle poses with pleasing expressions supporting the launch.

Over the next 1,000 days the target is for 80-90% of cattle herds to have engaged voluntarily in a BVD control scheme. Derek Armstrong (AHDB Dairy) explained that this is to be achieved by extensive use of the web and social media, supported by companies and events, but not utilising a large budget and “thousands of leaflets”.

To develop the scheme was “the obvious thing to do” and farmers are urged to “look at the outcome”. To attain BVD Free herd status is of direct commercial benefit.

Legislation possible

At the panel debate Bill Mellor, chairman of BVD Free England, considered that after the voluntary programme there may need to be legislation for the sale of animals from herds. Chris Dodds (Livestock Auctioneers Association) explained that at the point of sale as much information as possible about herd and individual animal health should be available to buyers.

The auctioneers want to offer BVD-free stock. At some markets there has already been a premium for calves from BVD-tested herds. It was also discussed that the on-farm experience from controlling the disease has been fewer cases of pneumonia and scours, better AI conception rates and that the herd “simply runs better”.

James Russell (Derbyshire Veterinary Services) discussed client experiences with extensive past vaccination alone not leading to control. The interpretation of test results, tag and test, bulk milk, blood needs to be accurate and he directed farmers to view the flow diagram on the website (

There are practical issues of detecting the disease but also being at risk from the disease. Knowing the risk of contracting the disease is as important as disease presence. Utilising the My Healthy Herd biosecurity assessment has shown that although 48% of herds were positive for BVD, there were 90% at risk.

The national database has 77,000 animal records and this is expected to rapidly increase following the launch of BVD Free England. It is already apparent that veterinary practices will need to be actively engaged.

Bluetongue vaccine

Information was circulated that supplies of Bluetongue vaccine are now available and a series of events will update farmers on the threat from the disease. Monitoring of stock is the first line of defence.

An industry-led Joint campaign Against Bluetongue (JAB) is promoting best practice and decisions about the need for vaccination to be taken immediately, as it can take six weeks for full immunity to be developed.

Bluetongue information for farmers is hosted within the NFU website ( Movement-restricted zones are operating in France where the virus is circulating and if the disease was identified in the UK, control measures including movement restrictions are in place in line with the GB disease control strategy.

There were over 300 trade stands at the Livestock Event and next door to one of the national disease control initiatives were promotions of products with a few leaflets and a smile. One such is an additive for colostrum or milk to be fed to young calves from birth to 14 days of age.

The benefits are said to be the “stabilisation of physiological digestion” and to “stimulate calf immunity defences and general health”. Further information from

Farm Safety Week has highlighted the continuing risks from working in agriculture. For the year to the end of March 2016, 10 employees and 17 self-employed died at work. This does not include farmers who die while driving tractors on the road. Half of the worker fatalities were to people aged 65 years or over.

Transport and falls are the highest categories but there is a wide spread of causes of death. Scotland, the south-west and Wales record the worst results. The recent report ( indicates that one person is killed every nine days as a result of an agricultural work activity. No one under 24 was killed at work. No information is recorded for veterinary activity.

Next year the Livestock Event (RABDF) was to be moved to September but this clashes with the UK Dairy Day (Holstein UK) and some exhibitors have indicated that they would not attend both events within a week. Talks are under way to arrange one major dairy event.

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