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

Friesian calfVD 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 promoting BVD control to the veterinary profession with the help of MSD Animal Health. Promotion to farmers has mainly been indirectly through veterinarians. In late 2014, a meeting was held in Wellington to which all relevant agricultural stakeholders were invited including DairyNZ, Beef and Lamb NZ, Federated Farmers, Meat Industry Association, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) and OSPRI. The stakeholders felt that national BVD control would be both technically and economically feasible for New Zealand, but there were still many unanswered questions about what the optimal control programme should look like.

Recognizing the importance of controlling BVD to the future of cattle production in New Zealand, the Ministry for Primary Industries joined forces with AGMARDT and industry in 2017 to sponsor a three-year research programme to build the business case for eradicating BVD in New Zealand. This involves collecting more field data on the impacts of BVD in beef herds to complete recent research work in the dairy industry as well as a national survey of farmers to determine what control measures would be practical to implement in their herds. This data will be used to build a computer simulation model to explore the long-term outcomes of different national control strategies. The results will be presented in July 2019 so that farmers and industry can select the optimal strategy for New Zealand.

For more information and to get involved in the battle for BVD Free, visit: