The fourth annual National BVD Survey attracted responses from a record 1,243 farmers and data is now in and has been analysed. One of the main areas that drew attention was the issue of biosecurity.

Overall, the survey attracted responses from 686 beef farmers (58 per cent) and 492 dairy farmers (42 per cent). When asked to provide a figure for the financial impact of BVD, the average (mean) impact provided was £44 per cow per year, although some respondents selected £100 per cow per year.

Survey organiser Matt Yarnall of Boehringer Ingelheim said: “Biosecurity is a hugely complex issue involving neighbouring farms, visitors to the home farm, where stock is reared and kept, in addition to stock purchasing policy.

“Equally significant was the issue of testing and herd surveillance. This was very variable across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England and uptake is, generally, much below where it should be for this disease to be effectively controlled.”

What makes a closed herd?

Of the 62 per cent of English producers that state they are closed herds, two per cent rear calves away, 19 per cent bring bulls in, two per cent buy in heifers or cows and one per cent purchase fattening stock.

Mr Yarnall said: “Obviously, this means they are not truly a closed herd and supports previous years when 23 per cent and 24 per cent of ‘closed herd’ producers in 2018 and 2017, respectively, also brought bulls onto the farm.

“Add to this the fact that ten per cent of these herds do not currently vaccinate so will not be protected against the BVD virus, and it is clear to see how vulnerable they are.

“BVD breakdowns are continuing to be reported, up and down the country. More often than not, this is due to an oversight when purchasing new stock – maybe they were in calf, and unbeknown to the purchasing producer, the unborn calf had been exposed to the virus.

"Another common way the virus gets into a herd is when stock is moved to a field without double fencing and comes into contact with BVD positive neighbouring stock.

“Without a belt and braces approach to testing, ongoing surveillance, good biosecurity practice and vaccination, herds will not be fully protected.”

National eradication programmes

Support from the four national eradication schemes can provide valuable information to farmers about how and when to test.

Mr Yarnall said: “England’s Stamp it Out initiative offers free BVD testing and veterinary support but it was disappointing to note that almost as many English producers aren’t aware of the testing as are planning to take advantage of it.”

Producers can take advantage of the free testing and veterinary support by contacting their vet, and they do not need to be currently participating in the BVDFree England voluntary eradication programme.