BVD Predicted costs and benefits of eradicating BVDV

Stott et al. Irish Veterinary Journal 2012, 65 :12

Iris Tréidliachta Éireann


Open Access

Predicted costs and benefits of eradicating BVDV from Ireland Alistair W Stott 1* , Roger W Humphry 1* , George J Gunn 1 , Isabella Higgins 2 , Thia Hennessy 3 , Joe O ’ Flaherty 4 and David A Graham 4 Abstract Bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) causes an economically important endemic disease (BVD) of cattle in Ireland and worldwide. Systematic eradication by detection and removal of infectious (BVDV carrier) cattle has been successful in several regions. We therefore assessed the benefits (disease losses avoided) and costs (testing and culling regime) of a potential eradication programme in Ireland. Published bio-economic models of BVDV spread in beef suckler herds and dairy herds were adapted to estimate potential benefits of eradication in Ireland. A simple model of BVDV spread in beef finisher herds was devised to estimate the benefits of eradication in this sector. A six year eradication programme consisting of 5 inter-related virological and serological testing programmes is outlined and costed. We found that the annualised benefits of BVDV eradication in Ireland exceeded the costs by a factor of 5 in the beef suckler sector and a factor of 14 in the dairy sector. Corresponding payback periods were 1.2 and 0.5 years respectively. These results highlight the significant economic impact of BVDV on the Irish cattle industry and suggest a clear economic benefit to eradication using the proposed approach. This type of cost-benefit analysis is considered an essential prerequisite prior to undertaking an eradication campaign of this magnitude. Keywords: BVDV, Eradication, Cost benefit analysis

Background Bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) causes BVD, one of the most important diseases of cattle worldwide [1]. This status results from a high prevalence in many countries [2] combined with wide ranging and insidious impacts on herd performance due to direct effects and to asso- ciations with infertility and with a range of other dis- eases through immunosuppression caused by BVDV [3]. The virus is spread primarily by individuals persistently infected (PI) with the virus. These animals become infected in-utero if their dam is either PI herself or sus- ceptible to infection and exposed to the virus in early pregnancy, becoming transiently infected followed by seroconversion. Further details of the epidemiology and economics of BVD are given by Houe [2]. Vaccines are available but these add costs and farmers often fail to appreciate their limitations and the importance of cor- rect and appropriate use [4]. There is also evidence that

cattle farmers do not routinely apply the biosecurity practices necessary to prevent introduction of BVDV [5]. Given the above situation, systematic eradication of BVDV from a country or region offers an alternative ap- proach to control at farm level that has been successfully applied in several European countries [6]. The most re- cently reported national BVDV eradication programme was described by Presi et al. [7]. They tested all Swiss cattle for BVD virus by antigen-capture ELISA or RT- PCR and culled all those individuals considered to be persistently infected (PI). Prevalence of virus-positive newborn calves fell from 1.8% to under 0.2% in two years. However, although the science and technology of BVDV eradication has been proven in Switzerland and elsewhere, the socioeconomic arguments are less well developed [8] but are likely to contribute greatly to a successful eradication campaign. More et al. [9] set priorities for non-regulatory animal health in Ireland using Policy Delphi methods to elicit opinion from experts and farmers. They identified BVD as a disease that should be prioritized for action based on the current threat to animal health and the

* Correspondence:; 1 Scottish Agricultural College, West Mains Road, Edinburgh, UK Full list of author information is available at the end of the article

© 2012 Stott et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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