Project code: RCF-01

Duration 2 Years

Team and Leader AFBI, Stormont

Organisations Involved AgriSearch (Project Leader and Co-Funder), DARD Research Challenge Fund (Co-Funder), Ulster Farmers Union, AFBI - Stormont (Research Partner)

Background and Summary

Bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) is the most significant endemic viral disease in the United Kingdom from both a welfare and an economic perspective, and the prospect of control and eradication of BVDV is currently the subject of considerable attention in both the UK and Ireland.

The inefficiencies due to the production losses attributed to BVDV are also recognised to contribute to the overall greenhouse gas emissions per unit of output. There is currently ongoing discussion in Northern Ireland on the feasibility of an eradication programme for BVDV.

In order to estimate the scale of such a task, and the associated timescales, costs and logistics, it is necessary to first determine the prevalence of infection in herds. Therefore the key activity within this project will be the performance of an appropriately designed survey to determine the prevalence of suckler and dairy herds in Northern Ireland with evidence of current or recent active infection with bovine viral diarrhoea virus.

This information will feed into an industry-led group currently considering the feasibility of, and options for BVDV control, and will also be used to estimate the GHG savings that such control could deliver.


350 dairy and suckler herds will be tested at the annual BR test.  Herd testing will be carried out using the "check test" approach already used within the AFBI cattle health scheme.  This tests young stock (9-18 months of age) for evidence of antibodies to BVDV, with a target of 10 animals per herd.  An absence of antibodies indicates that they have not been in contract with a persistently infected animal (PI), and is strong evidence of the absence of current, or recent infection in that herd.  On the other hand, the presence of antibodies in one or more animals indicated that virus has been circulating in the herd in the lifetime of the animals sampled, and therefore that the herd is currently (or has recently) been infected with BVDV.

The next step will consist of collation of results generated from testing and analysis thereof to generate descriptive statistics of work done plus prevalence figures, the potential GHG saving associated with the eradication of BVDV in Northern Ireland will also be calculated.

Related material - Summary Report for DARD Research Challenge Fund Project: Serological Survey to determine prevalence of Northern Ireland suckler and dairy herds with evidence of current or recent infection with Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Virus (BVD)