Tissue Tagging and Testing for BVD



So, what is BVD?

Across the UK BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhoea) has become an increasingly worrying problem for cattle farmers. BVD is a virus that can have diverse effects on calves and cows including diarrhoea, calf pneumonia, reproductive disorders, increased occurrence of other diseases, and death. Ultimately, decreasing cattle performance and yields leading to reduced profit margins for the farmer.

Currently, It is one of the biggest disease issues for UK producers and has been estimated to cost the industry in the UK as much as £31 per cow, £3,100 on a 100 head unit! Nationally this adds up to £61million per year (Bennett and Ijpelaar, 2005).


How is BVD Transmitted?

BVD can be transmitted in one of two ways, either from a PI (Persistently infected animal) or a TI (Transiently infected animal). PI animals have BVD for life and are only created when developing in their mother’s uterus. This happens in the first 120 days of gestation. A live PI sheds huge amounts of virus in urine, faeces, saliva, semen and blood for its whole life. Many will be aborted or die at a young age, but a few survive and always produce PI offspring thereafter so need to be identified and culled. On the other hand, we have a TI. These are animals that are exposed to the virus after birth, much like if you were to catch the flu as a person, it will knock you for a while and until you recover and lower your immune system's response. That is why a batch of TI calves can be susceptible to scours or pneumonia while BVD is lowering their resistance to other nasties. During this time, they may be fine, and you never know BVD is present. A TI will exhibit a wide range of clinical signs or none at all. If tested after they have recovered, they will show previous BVD exposure with antibodies present but not the BVD virus. They can remain in the herd and are not a source of infection, unlike a PI.


How tissue tagging and testing can help prevent and treat BDV

Tissue Tagging and testing as the herd calves is popular, essentially gaining two tests for one as the status of the dam is also revealed. It is seen to be important to tag any stillborn calves and ‘empty cows’ as they are highly suspicious. Tagging followers and young stock is still important as it shouldn’t be assumed, they are BVD free. But how do tissue tags work you ask? Basically, when the animal is tagged a sample of tissue is taken from where the tag pierces the animal’s skin and then stored in a small vial ready to be tested.

We offer 2 options for this, Our all-new Z Tag TST (Tissue sampling Tag) and TSO (Tissue Sampling Only). The Z Tag TST will take a sample whilst leaving a tag in the ear but the Z Tag TSO will only take a sample and a tag will not be left in the ear. This gives good options to the farmer as it will allow them to test older animals that have already been tagged as well as testing calves when been tagged after birth.


What does the future hold for Tissue Tagging and testing?

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland BVD testing is already mandatory with it looking to be put in place in England too in the near future as the UK looks to eradicate the virus. When asked, 48% of Scottish herds reported a significant reduction in antibiotic usage with reduced disease in calves and improved fertility equating to a financial benefit of £44 per cow (Source; Kath Aplin, veterinary adviser Boehringer Ingelheim). Currently, 41% of the English breeding herd is involved in the voluntary scheme. As well as this, BVD vaccines are now available to fight the virus alongside testing and the country is taking large steps with the final aim of eradicating BVD out of the UK in the future.


How Z Tag Tissue Sampling tags could benefit you in other ways

Another popular use of tissue tagging is DNA sampling which is becoming an increasingly important livestock management tool. Often used in the past to simply determine parentage, this technology is now enhancing herd and flock productivity and health. Testing for both desirable and undesirable genes is now a cost-effective way of maximising the genetic potential from your breed or herd.

There are endless options available to you with tissue tagging and so many benefits that could help you improve your herd in the future. For more information please don’t be afraid to contact us with any questions or queries you may have.