A new calf testing and monitoring scheme for bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) has been strengthened by the backing of a 53-strong UK-wide group of vet practices.

Launched at Beef Expo last week (May 22), Check Tag BVD promotes calf testing and provides verification of a negative test result for the disease through a central and fully accessible online database. Backed by XLVets, the scheme is “simple to use“, it said, with a sample taken during the normal tagging of new-born calves or pre-movement.

Also, the scheme includes branded white tags as part of the testing procedure to provide an “easily identifiable and highly visible” prompt for calf buyers to check test results before purchase.

Dan Humphries of XLVets member practice Lambert, Leonard and May, said the main aim of Check Tag BVD is to improve the identification of source farms and reduce the risks of persistently infected (PI) calves moving from unit to unit, stemming the spread of the disease.

“BVD is primarily spread by PIs, which are calves born from cows that are infected with BVD,” he said. “These PI calves often appear normal, but will spread infection to other cattle they come into contact with. It’s therefore critical we remove these animals from the breeding herd and also ensure they are not sold into other herds.

“By identifying PIs, ideally shortly after birth and certainly before they move from their home unit, we can minimise the spread of BVD and also offer more targeted control programmes in herds identified as infected.”

The scheme – sponsored by MSD Animal Health – is voluntary and the white tags are available from a number of tag suppliers, with tissue analysis either done by the vet practice or through a central laboratory, depending on the type of tag used. Cost is estimated to be approximately £5 to £6/tag, which includes the laboratory testing.

Once calves have been tagged and tissue samples analysed, results will be recorded via the farm’s veterinary practice on to a central database. This database, which will be accessible from any smartphone through an app, will provide verification of all calves testing negative through the scheme.

“The scheme is effectively being piloted on a significant scale through XLVets member practices, but any farmer – not only clients of XLVets practices – will be able to access the database from the outset,” said Mr Humphries. “The ultimate aim is all practices having the option of participating in the scheme, with the database being hosted independently, thereby allowing the branded white tag to become a universal symbol to promote BVD awareness and prompt positive action to remove PIs.”

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