Vet kit helps to improve health of Norway cows

TESTS developed by a veterinary research firm in Edinburgh are to be used by the maker of Jarlsberg cheese to improve the health of its cows.

Tine, a £2.2 billion dairy co-operative owned by more than 15,000 Norwegian farmers, will start using the tests from MV Diagnostics over the summer to look for eight diseases in all 10,000 of its dairy herds.

The latest deal builds on a long-running relationship between the Scottish outfit and Norway’s biggest dairy co-op.

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MV Diagnostics, which was set up in 1999 by Royal Dick Vet School scientists Gordon Harkiss and Neil Watt, created a test for the “caprine arthritis encephalitis virus” (CAEV), which affects goats’ lungs, mammary glands, central nervous systems and joints.

Tine – which also produces cheeses such as Ridder, Snøfrisk and Snow Queen, as well as more than 100 local varieties – began using the CAEV test eight years ago.

MV Diagnostics then worked with the Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh and Scottish Agricultural College to add a second test, for a bacterial disease called “CLA”. ­Together, the CAEV and CLA tests allowed farmers in Norway to tackle the diseases and boost milk production in affected herds by 40 per cent.

Watt said: “We convinced Tine to use this new test by showing it was better than the test they had been using.

“Now CAEV infection has been dramatically reduced in Norway and CLA infection rates are coming down.”

MV Diagnostics, whose tests are manufactured in France by Hyphen BioMed, is now working with Irish company Enfer Scientific to develop “multiplex” tests, which can look for more than one disease in the same sample.

Watt visited Norway last month to launch the latest version of his firm’s product for goats, which includes a test for Johne’s disease, a condition that affects their intestines.

Harkiss added: “There are a number of multiplex tests on the market but most of them look for thousands of diseases at the same time on a sample and have to run in expensive laboratories.

“Farmers are maybe only looking to run tests for a small number of diseases and that’s where our system has an advantage.”