Bovine Viral Diarrhoea is an infectious production disease of major importance in many cattle sectors of the world. The infection is predominantly transmitted by animal contact. Postnatal infections are transient, leading to immunologically protected cattle. However, for a certain window of pregnancy, in utero infection of the foetus results in persistently infected (PI) calves being the major risk of BVD spread, but also an efficient target for controlling the infection. There are two acknowledged strategies to identify PI animals for removal: tissue tag testing (direct; also known as the Swiss model) and serological screening (indirect by interpreting the serological status of the herd; the Scandinavian model). Both strategies are effective in reducing PI prevalence and herd incidence. During the first four years of the Irish national BVD eradication programme (2013-16), it has been mandatory for all newborn calves to be tested using tissue tag testing. During this period, PI incidence has substantially declined. In recent times, there has been interest among stakeholders in a change to an indirect testing strategy, with potential benefit to the overall programme, particularly with respect to cost to farmers. Advice was sought on the usefulness of implementing the necessary changes. Here we review available data from the national eradication programme and strategy performance predictions from an expert system model to quantify expected benefits of the strategy change from strategic, budgetary and implementation points of view. Key findings from our work include (i) drawbacks associated with changes to programme implementation, in particular the loss of epidemiological information to allow real-time monitoring of eradication progress or to reliably predict time to eradication, (ii) the fact that only 25% of the herds in the Irish cattle sector (14% beef, 78% dairy herds) would benefit financially from a change to serosurveillance, with half of these participants benefiting by less than EUR 75 per annum at herd level or an average of EUR 1.22 per cow, and (iii) opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of the current programme, particularly in terms of time to eradication, through enforced compliance with PI removal as currently outlined in programme recommendations. The assembled information provides scientific arguments, contributing to an informed debate of the pros and cons of a change in eradication strategy in Ireland.
University College Dublin ->