Carolyn Gates

A national campaign is asking beef and dairy farmers across New Zealand to help develop frameworks for disease control of bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVD).

BVD is an infectious cattle disease which costs New Zealand farmers an estimated $150 million per year, primarily through reproductive issues, reduced growth rates and decreased milk production. Infected animals are also much more likely to fall ill from other significant diseases and spread these within and between herds.

The campaign, led by Massey University and the National BVD Steering Committee, will be running from July 15  2018 to May 15 2019. Cattle farmers can register on the project website, which has interactive tools that makes it easy for farmers to confidentially share what they are currently doing to manage BVD in their herds, or to work in partnership with their veterinarian to develop a new BVD management plan tailored to their unique herd situation.

This information will then be used by the research team to predict what the future of BVD in New Zealand might look like if the current voluntary approach is continued, versus adopting more coordinated national efforts.

Chairperson of the National BVD Steering Committee Roger Ellison says the more information the project has, the better the support that can be provided to manage the disease.

“Every farm in New Zealand has different management styles, risk factors and priorities that will influence what the optimal strategy would look like for their herd. We want to create a new system that empowers farmers to shape the future of managing animal health issues that impact their business in a way that will have the biggest impact for industry at the lowest cost to individual farms.

“BVD has been costing the New Zealand cattle industry far too much, for far too long,” he says.

Funding is available for the first 500 eligible herds that register to receive a free herd BVD screening test and the website will provide up-to-date information on regional risks for BVD thanks to generous support from the veterinary diagnostic laboratories (Gribbles Veterinary, IDEXX Laboratories, LIC, and SVS Laboratories).

A challenge, but achievable

Project Manager, Massey University’s Dr Carolyn Gates says BVD control is a challenge, but achievable with farmer help.

“Unlike many other infectious cattle diseases such asJohne’s disease and bovine tuberculosis, we have effective tools available right now to clear BVD from infected herds and we know based on the experiences from European countries with national BVD control programmes that this can substantially improve herd health and performance,” she says.

“But we also know New Zealand pastoral farming systems are very diverse and certainly very different from the intensive production systems in the northern hemisphere, and so the one-size-fits all BVD control frameworks that have worked in Europe may not be the most cost-effective or practical here.

“That’s why we’re asking as many farmers as possible to tell us how BVD currently impacts their business and what control measures would be practical for them to implement so that we can build a better picture of the BVD situation in New Zealand, and make more intelligent decisions around disease control,” Dr Gates says.

The results from the computer simulation models based on this information will be presented back to farmers and industry in July 2019 allowing them to choose a strategy with the biggest long-term benefits for New Zealand cattle businesses.

For more information and to get involved, visit the BVD Free New Zealand project website.

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