Gwaredu BVD – the last year

Posted on October 01, 2019 by Neil Paton

Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) is one of the biggest disease issues facing the UK cattle industry. Gwaredu BVD, the BVD eradication initiative in Wales, has now reached its third and final year. Neil Paton tells us why the Gwaredu BVD team are now calling for vets to help shape what happens next, and work to remove this disease from the national herd.

The story so far...

To date, 7500 farms have tested once, and 4500 farms have tested twice by vets under the Gwaredu BVD initiative. This is testament to the hard work and enthusiasm of vets in the field and something that the profession can be rightly proud of. You can read more about how we achieved this in my blog from last year, Eradicating BVD in Wales

This initiative has now reached its final year of screening. From the 1 September 2019 until 31 August 2020, farmers in Wales are eligible for one last screen, free of charge, with vet time and fees paid for through Gwaredu BVD.

As we enter the final year, it’s time to start the process of developing a strategy to follow on from the 3 year programme. From the start of the programme, we’ve always believed that Welsh Government legislation is required to complete the task and achieve the ambition of eradicating BVD from the national herd in Wales. 

What next?

The Gwaredu BVD steering group has submitted a paper to Welsh Government requesting legislation to continue the work carried out by vets and farmers towards BVD freedom. 

The submitted plan is a three phase approach:

  • Phase 1: All cattle farms in Wales would need to have a status applied within the first year. This is based on the Gwaredu BVD screening system already in place, so farmers that have engaged would see no change to the system as they are familiar with it
  • Phase 2: Any BVD positive farms would need to test animals for the virus before moving them. So, if an animal was presented for sale (eg at market) it would need to record a negative result to a viral antigen test. Any farms that had a negative screening test would be free to move animals without further testing.
  • Phase 3: Any positive farms would be mandated to screen all the animals on farm until they could demonstrate a negative screening status. 

This is a proposal that all parties felt they could sign up to. However, the proposed legislation is not guaranteed either to come into force nor is it guaranteed to be written how we’ve requested.

How can I help?

This proposal is currently being considered by Welsh Government, who are likely to publish an industry stakeholder consultation in due course. This will offer the veterinary community a unique opportunity to influence the development of future BVD legislation.

BVA will submit a response once the consultation window is opened. Individual vets are encouraged to send their comments and thoughts to BVA Welsh Branch so they can be captured in the response. Please send your comments to welshpresident@bva.co.uk

How can I prepare farmers?

With only a year to go it should be a matter of some urgency to prepare farmers for the coming potential legislation. As the format of any legislation cannot be guaranteed, the simplest and most robust advice is to become BVD free. This means getting a screen to determine the status of the farm as soon as possible. Where they are positive, it is probably sensible in most cases to undertake a PI hunt, which Gwaredu BVD will support, and advise the removal to slaughter of animals found to be PI’s. 

Where farmers are buying in and a PI hunt is not suitable as an approach, then care with purchasing should be advised. Advice should be given on how to choose animals and what to do with them as they arrive on the farm, the Gwaredu BVD status on the issued certificates being one tool that could help. When going to market, farmers should be aware that the sale of PI is currently occurring. 

In summary...

BVD eradication is achievable in Wales, and we have done a lot towards that aim. Much remains to be done, but Gwaredu BVD still has the tools available to achieve this. If those tools are used on your farms, they can avoid being affected by the proposed legislation in whatever form it finally arrives.

Find out more

If you are Vet working in Wales, you can contact either Neil Paton or the Gwaredu BVD team at GwaredUBVD@colegsirgar.ac.uk

If you are a farmer in Wales and interested in applying to be tested under the programme, please talk to your Vet.

Neil Paton

Written by Neil Paton

BVA Welsh Branch Past President

Lecturer in Farm Animal Health and Production – Royal Veterinary College

Technical Director of Animal Health and Welfare Wales – Gwaredu BVD