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BVD, or bovine viral diarrhoea, is probably the most important viral disease of cattle in New Zealand.

Friesian calfBVD causes significant production losses to both the dairy and beef industries and at least 60% of cattle in New Zealand have been exposed. Recent figures for infected dairy herds estimate the losses at about $150 million for the industry and $220 per cow in an infected herd. These losses include increased abortions, increased calving to conception interval and services per conception and decreased milk production.

Interest in BVD control is growing rapidly. In 2005 a steering committee was formed under the umbrella of the New Zealand Veterinary Association to examine the feasibility of controlling BVD in New Zealand. The committee concluded that a formal control programme was not feasible at this time due to limitations in diagnostic techniques, industry awareness, and economic impact data. The veterinary profession was also divided as to the significance of BVD in New Zealand cattle.

What is happening

Since 2005, the BVD Steering Committee has spent most of its time and resources, with the help of its partner, MSD Animal Health,  promoting BVD control to the veterinary profession. Promotion to farmers has mainly been indirect through veterinarians.

Now, the BVD Steering Committee believes it is time to explore the possibility of a national BVD control programme based on the fact that there is; a strong economic argument for control, especially in dairy, it is feasible to control at the farm level, veterinarians now have the skills to advise farmers on control.

A meeting was held in Wellington in late 2014 to which all relevant agricultural stakeholders were invited. This included DairyNZ, Beef and Lamb NZ, Federated Farmers, Meat Industry Association, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) and OSPRI.  The feasability of different control options were explored at this meeting.

Subsequent to this meeting, DairyNZ have included BVD and its control as one of the diseases/pests to be evaluated as part of its wideranging biosecurity review and strategy development process. The outcome of this work will be the setting of priorities for resources to control specific diseases/pests considered  important by dairy farmers and the industry.

Beef and Lamb NZ board and management are supportive of a voluntary control program based on farmer education and the establishment of a national BVD database (using the existing NAIT (National Animal Identification & Tracing) database).