The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is backing a major cattle industry initiative to help eliminate bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) by extending the existing BVD Free programme in England.

The extended programme, which is still in the planning stages, is being supported with £60,000 funding from AHDB’s dairy division (DairyCo) and AHDB’s beef and lamb division (EBLEX).

The aim is that BVD Free will be launched in England later this year and will work closely with similar BVD programmes operating in Scotland and Wales.

The Royal Veterinary College has estimated the impact of BVD on the English dairy and beef sectors to be £11.36m per year – with the impact doubling to more than £22m in a “worst case scenario”.

AHDB’s BVD Free programme will build on a two-year knowledge transfer programme funded by the Rural Development Programme for England and managed by DairyCo since 2013.

Gwyn Jones, chairman of AHDB’s dairy division (DairyCo) and of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance said BVD added significant cost through its ill effects on fertility and health.

“Eliminating BVD virus will not only improve health, welfare and production efficiency, but contribute to our aim of reducing the need to use antimicrobials through better health,” he said.

“I passionately believe this is a goal that is not only right for the dairy industry, but is achievable if everyone works together”.

EBLEX chairman Stuart Roberts said beef farmers were particularly vulnerable to the effects of BVD, which could potentially wipe out one year of the productive life of beef suckler cows either because they did not get in calf or they produced a persistently infected calf, which then died before reaching a marketable weight.

“BVD elimination will not only improve individual suckler herd outputs in the short term, but, through less pneumonia and other health effects, will yield industry-wide long-term benefits,” he said.

BVD control is one of the key priorities of the GB Cattle Health and Welfare Group (CHAWG). More than 25 organisations and companies have signed CHAWG’s BVD Statement of Intent.

Derek Armstrong of AHDB’s dairy division, who will lead for AHDB on BVD elimination, welcomed the broad industry support and added “The time is now right for a coordinated and concerted effort to eliminate BVD from the UK, which will improve the health and welfare of and reduce production costs for future generations of British cattle.”

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