BVD free, but still breaking the bank

Author: Carolyn Gates

Heifers at risk of getting exposed to BVD through contact with neighbouring herds over the fence

When we talk about the economic benefits of national bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVD) control, we have a strong tendency to focus strictly on the direct production impacts for the 65% of beef herds and 35% of dairy herds that are believed to be actively infected.  And not without good reason – even using conservative figures, BVD is estimated to cost New Zealand farmers more than $150 million per year through its negative effects on reproductive performance, milk yields, calf growth rates, and animal immune function.  It’s easy to see why many farmers with infected herds have already taken active measures to eliminate the virus such as testing individual animals to identify and remove those that are persistently infected (PI) and vaccinating breeding cattle to prevent the creation of new PIs. 

With these control measures, it is technically possible to eliminate BVD and its production impacts on the herd in under two years.  However, the disease still remains expensive for farmers because of the ongoing need to prevent the virus from being reintroduced from outside sources.  This includes having to continually monitor the herd status, test all purchased stock for BVD, and vaccinate all breeding cattle that could be exposed to the virus through contact with animals, personnel, and equipment from other farms.  With the current level of voluntary control, there are an estimated 1.5 million doses of BVD vaccine sold across New Zealand each year and over 35,000 diagnostic testing events involving hundreds of thousands of individual animals, which could be adding more than $25 million per year to the national BVD bill.

By working together to eradicate BVD from New Zealand, we can help infected herds regain their lost production and we can permanently eliminate the risk of negative herds introducing or reintroducing the virus through unavoidable contacts with other livestock farms.  Find out how much a BVD Free New Zealand could save your business by registering on the project website and sharing your BVD story.