UK needs New Focus on IBR Control

10 July 2009

Switching UK cattle onto Europe’s leading Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) live marker vaccine will allow us to begin to match our EU competitors in terms of identifying infected cattle and be ready to make similar progress towards eradicating the disease.

According to Ian Anderson MRCVS from Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, the UK has much to do in terms of controlling its cattle IBR problem.

“In the UK we are behind some of our European colleagues in terms of controlling what has become a widespread and costly viral disease in this country. Recent bulk milk and blood screening of a nationwide sample of our herds revealed 72% testing positive for IBR – a situation that compares poorly with other EU countries, such as Holland, where exposure levels are reported to be below 10%,” he says.

He points out that the widespread use of live marker vaccines such as the market-leading product, Bovilis IBR Marker Live, has helped many continental European cattle producers control IBR effectively. In Holland, for example, where great strides have been made towards disease eradication, live marker vaccines account for over 90% of IBR vaccine use. The main use of inactivated vaccines is in regions where eradication is almost complete – a situation we in the UK are far from reaching, he stresses.

“For UK producers looking to export cattle, the roll-out of live marker vaccine will certainly make life easier for our industry as use of vaccine is determined by rules in the destination country. But even if you are not exporting livestock, IBR control is imperative purely on financial grounds,” he said.

“The cost of this disease is potentially enormous. Studies have shown that, for dairy herds, IBR infection can depress milk yields by 173 litres per lactation per affected animal. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg – growth rates in replacement heifers and beef cattle can also be severely depressed. In addition, animals can die from IBR, easily pushing losses into the £’000s for some herds badly hit by a disease outbreak.”

Ian Anderson explained that in the longer term, being able to distinguish a vaccinated animal from one that has been exposed to IBR naturally – or one that is naturally free from infection – will be a significant benefit for any producer wanting to move towards disease eradication. As disease-free accreditation may yet arrive in the UK, the wholesale move to marker live vaccine makes sound commercial sense, he pointed out.