Farmers pushed to cull ‘persistent infected’ cattle

BVD-infected cattle can spread the disease to others. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

BVD-infected cattle can spread the disease to others. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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With the disease now present on fewer than one in ten farms in many parts of Scotland, the nation-wide programme to eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) is about to get tough on those who do not cull animals which risk spreading the virus.

Nigel Miller, former NFU Scotland president and chairman of Livestock Health Scotland, has called on the industry to maintain the momentum of the national eradication scheme and to weed out persistent infected (PI) animals which can spread the disease within the herd and to neighbouring units.

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Miller said that the disease eroded health and production within affected herds and could infect calves in the womb, creating a new generation of virus super-shedders. He said that the PI animals were the “Trojan Horse” of the disease, as they continually shed high levels of virus, causing it to spread.

He said: “Detecting PI cattle and removing them from the herd is the key to eradication … It is vital to remove PI calves before the bulls start working to break the disease cycle and avoid a new generation of PI calves being born.”

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He added that it was also crucial to ensure PI cattle did not go to grazing, as they would pose a risk to all contact cattle, including neighbouring stock.

Miller said that phase five of the scheme was being developed, with guidance from the BVD Advisory Group, and added: “The aim will be to get tough on PI cattle and through more robust controls protect herds which are free of BVD virus.”

He said that the tougher line had already been started with the introduction of a “positive herd” classification status for high risk herds which retained PI cattle on the holding.

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