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Managing endemic infectious disease in cattle herds
  1. Peter Orpin, BVSc, MRCVS1 and
  2. Dick Sibley, BVSc, HonFRCVS2
  1. 1Park Vet Group, 82-84 High Street, Whetstone, Leicester LE8 6LQ, UK
  2. 2West Ridge Veterinary Practice, 5 Chapple Road, Witheridge, Devon EX16 8AS, UK
  1. e-mail: pete.orpin{at}, e-mail: dicksibley{at}

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THERE are embryonic programmes of infectious disease control and eradication developing within the UK cattle industry, but their gestation is prolonged and not without prenatal anxieties. Ever since the official cattle health schemes were abandoned by the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the 1980s, and the schemes adopted and adapted by various private laboratories under the umbrella of the Cattle Health Certification Standards (, the evolution of national, wide scale engagement with endemic infectious disease programmes has been slow. Left to market forces, endemic infectious diseases are here to stay.

The very nature of common cattle infectious diseases, such as bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV), infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and bovine paratuberculosis (Johne's disease), which all involve symptomless carriers as their main source of infection, make them very difficult to control. The easy and practical option of vaccination is commonly selected as the simplest method of control, but we now understand that such a strategy rarely leads to eradication. Vaccination alone tends to minimise the impact of the disease while the pathogen persists. For example, all of us in veterinary practice have examples where herds have been vaccinated against BVDV for many years, with proven, effective vaccines, yet the disease continues to exist, and clinical outbreaks can still occur. This is generally not a failure of the vaccine, but a failure of vaccination. Meadows (2010) demonstrated that only 24 per cent of BVD vaccinations were administered at the recommended time before service and 21 per cent of users gave the wrong dose or administered the vaccine by the wrong route. With this standard of vaccination, we can hardly expect our vaccine programmes to be fully effective.

Similarly, simply creating a structured programme of surveillance is unlikely to control disease on its own: testing never cured anything. An …

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