New BVD vaccine offers vital calf protection

Protecting youngstock from disease is a vital but often tricky task, particularly when it comes to endemic diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) which can be ever-present in a herd. Indeed, over 60% of herds screened have been shown to have had previous exposure to the virus in some way. Preventing the spread of the virus and the cycle of infection is critical, and the calf is an important element of any plan.

The launch earlier this year of Bovela, a new BVD vaccine from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, offers dairy and beef farmers the opportunity to vaccinate calves against BVD from just three months of age, the very time when natural immunity derived from maternal antibodies ceases to offer full protection.

Boehringer Ingelheim’s Allan Henderson says youngstock are the future of any herd, so it makes sense to protect them from disease as much as possible. “Obviously, this starts with ensuring calves receive adequate colostrum at birth so that they gain the maximum benefit from maternal antibodies.

“But this must be followed up with appropriate vaccinations as and when required. Traditional BVD vaccines cannot be used at three months of age which can leave calves at risk of infection, sometimes until they are eight months old.

“By being administered to calves at three months of age, Bovela offers a unique opportunity to protect them as soon as the protection offered by maternal antibodies begins to wear off,” he explains.

Calves infected with BVD at a young age will fail to thrive. More importantly, the immunosuppressive action of BVD also leaves them at risk from many other diseases.

“By reducing the calf’s immune response, BVD gives many other diseases a stronger chance of taking hold, which can result in losses.

“This is particularly true of conditions such as pneumonia which can, in turn, cause significant problems for young cattle. This can have an impact on them for the rest of their lives,” says Mr Henderson.

A survey recently conducted for Boehringer Ingelheim found that 42% of herds which suffered BVD also experienced high levels of disease in calves, he adds. “The very fact that farmers have seen higher than normal levels of disease in calves when BVD is present in herds is a stark warning to the industry that calves shouldn’t be left unprotected against the disease.

“And while many vaccines require a two-stage primary course, the unique single-dose primary vaccination for Bovela makes it ideal for use in calves. This reduces the need to handle calves unnecessarily,” he stresses.

Farmers considering their BVD control strategy should contact their vet to discuss the best course of action for their own herd. Use of any BVD vaccine in young calves can have implications for youngstock monitoring, so it’s also important to have a diagnostic plan in place, he adds. “Every herd’s situation is different, but being able to protect calves from the point that maternal antibody protection wanes is an obvious benefit and offers the opportunity to eliminate BVD from herds in a more structured manner.”

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