A highly contagious disease significantly affecting the health, well being and profitability of cattle in your herd. Also found in the majority of countries in the world, a number are engaged in/or have already undertaken BVD eradication programmes including Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (ROI).

To effectively identify, eradicate and remain BVD virus free, it is important to undertake three actions together;

Do I have to test for BVD in NI?

Yes. A voluntary eradication programme began in 2013 by Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI), and from March 2016 testing animals for BVD will be compulsory.

Do Countryside Services provide a tag and test service I can use on-farm?

Yes, ear tissue samples are easily collected for testing using special BVDNI approved Caisley cattletags then sent for virus testing by our trusted partners The Cattle Information Service (CIS) or Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

Does my vet need to attend?

No, you can do it yourself. The BVDNI approved Caisley cattletags are available direct from Countryside Services your local vet or farmers merchant. They are quick, easy and accurate and the most cost effective way to test for BVD –you buy them with a test included.

Your vet can advise on Biosecurity measures and a suitable Vaccination programme.

How long will the compulsory BVD testing programme take in NI?

It is suggested it will be three years so if you start now in the voluntary programme this will count towards that. You will also see immediate health and financial benefits in your herd if BVD is present.

What causes BVD?

The Bovine Viral Diarrhoea virus (BVDV) is the cause of BVD. Like all viruses, they are microscopic infectious organisms. In the case of BVD virus, it is suggested that 170,000 virus particles placed side by side would only cover a distance of 1cm. 1ml of blood from an infected animal may contain more than 1 million infectious viral particles. Infected animals secrete (or shed) vast amounts of virus.

What are the symptoms of BVD in adult cattle?

They can vary but include; fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, ocular discharge, nasal discharge oral lesions, diarrhoea decreasing milk production, coughing and poor fertility. Chronic infection may lead to signs of mucosal disease. This animal may have become infected from their mother whilst in the womb, from another animal or even the virus picked up from infected clothing, equipment or a building and can survive up to four weeks out of body.

What are the symptoms of BVD in newly born calves?

Calves can be stillborn or die soon after birth. They can suffer from wide stance, tremors, stumbling about with lack of coordination (Ataxia) and failure to suckle. This can indicate they have been infected from their mother and are what is know as Persistently Infected (PI) and they need to be isolated, retested, then culled and not sold on.

What are the symptoms of BVD in older calves or in the days following calving?

Symptoms which may occur after birth and in older calves include scours, calf pneumonia, and increased occurrence of other diseases, ill thrift or death. Commonly these calves do not respond to treatment as you would expect. Their immune systems have been suppressed due to possible exposure to the BVD virus from another carrier in the herd or other infection source and become Transiently Infected (TI).

I do not seem to have a problem so why should I worry?

BVD can be the underlying cause of a range of issues in your herd that may on the surface not seem significant; more ‘empty’ cows than you should have indicating fertility problems, the odd ‘poor doer’ which never amounts to much, or scours or respiratory problems here and there –‘all part of livestock farming’ but which may be caused by BVD silently taking your time and profits.

What are infection sources of the BVD virus and how long can it stay active?

The BVD virus is highly infectious and can be spread by nose-to-nose contact, urine, faeces (including slurry) tears, saliva, clothing, equipment, buildings, trailers and, on occasion, semen and embryos. It can stay active out of body for up to four weeks. Sheep can act as ‘reservoirs’ and spread the disease but this is not fully understood. Little risk is thought to exist from wild ruminants but infection has occurred in goats and wild deer. Biting flies are thought to spread infection also.

What is Mucosal disease?

This is often triggered by BVD and animals affected often have scours often containing blood, a high temperature and mucosal lesions in the mouth, as well as ulcerations at the muzzle, the nose, the rim of the hoof. It often leads to death of the animal.

Are any cattle breeds less susceptible to BVD?

No, other factors such as stocking density, individually housed calves as opposed to batches, use of a high-quality colostrum for calves, the general health of the herd, Biosecurity and a Strategic Vaccination programme are also important factors.

Can humans and other animals contract BVD?

There is no known health risk to humans from the BVD virus although we can spread it on infected clothing and equipment.

Who are AHWNI?

AHWNI was formally launched in 2012. It is an industry-led, not-for-profit partnership between livestock producers, processors, animal health advisers and government designed to promote improved cattle health and welfare within NI.
A cross-industry BVD Implementation Group (BVDIG) is the industry body convened by AHWNI to eradicate BVD from NI. Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) of which Countryside Services Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary are part of this industry body.