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Farmers to Take Vet Advice Over Calf Syndrome

NFU Scotland is suggesting livestock farmers contact their local vets about the small, but growing number, of Scottish calves thought to have died from a new condition known as Bleeding Calf Syndrome.

Although under review, NFUS is reminding farmers and vets that SAC currently provides a free post mortem service for those calves thought to have the condition and urges producers to discuss any unexplained calf deaths with the experts.   Since April 2009, SAC has carried out post-mortems on a number Scottish calves, from both beef and dairy herds, that have suffered from the syndrome, known formally as Bovine Neonatal Pancytopenia (BNP).   Last year, SAC confirmed 48 cases of BNP on 35 farms in Scotland.  So far in 2010, there have been fewer than 30 new Scottish cases confirmed but fresh cases are under test.

Around Europe, BNP cases now exceed 2000 and significant resources in Scotland and elsewhere are being directed towards investigating the possible factors behind the syndrome, the disease traits and establishing if treatment is possible.  

A feature of the investigations to date is that many affected calves were from herds vaccinated against another disease, Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD). No direct causal relationship between BVD vaccination and BNP has been established and experts from across the EU have concluded that there may be many factors involved in BNP.

In recent correspondence issued by animal health firm, Pfizer Animal Health it states that from currently available data, where this syndrome has been reported, it has appeared statistically more frequently, although not exclusively, on farms with a history of vaccination with the Pfizer product, PregSure BVD, than on farms using other BVD vaccines or those using no BVD vaccinations at all.   Pfizer has recently taken the decision to voluntarily stop selling PregSure BVD in Germany, the country with the highest incidence of BNP cases.

The Union continues to discuss the disease with Scottish stakeholders, including Scotland’s Chief Veterinary officer, SAC, Moredun Research Institute and the British Veterinary Association in Scotland.   It met privately with Pfizer representatives late in 2009 and continues in discussions with the company.

NFU Scotland Vice-President Nigel Miller, a Borders livestock farmer and a qualified vet said:

"The development of this condition in calves is a concern for all cattle keepers and it is important that we continue to play our part in helping the industry establish what is behind this worrying and disturbing disease.   Beef and dairy farmers should keep an eye out for unexplained deaths in any young calves, in particular for signs of persistent bleeding and if they think they have affected animals, to contact their own vet or their local investigation lab and make use of the available post mortem services. 

“It is in the interests of all livestock farmers that we assist the vets and researchers in tackling this syndrome now.  Similarly, if a farmer has concerns over the disease and any implications that it may have for his current herd health plans or vaccination strategies, then it would be worthwhile talking these through with the vet before considering any changes.

“The reaction of the Scottish industry to Bleeding Calf Syndrome highlights some of the great strengths that we have here in Scotland.  At an early stage, we have the involvement of SAC, veterinary investigation labs, vet schools, private vets and Moredun leaving Scotland well placed to feed into the European effort looking to shed light on Bleeding Calf Syndrome, its problems and the potential answers.”    

Notes to editors

  • Since 2008, a new disease called Bovine Neonatal Pancytopenia (BNP) or Bleeding Calf Syndrome has been described in calves. The majority of the 2000 cases have been reported in Germany but there have also been cases in other European countries including Scotland. In 2009 SAC confirmed 48 cases of BNP on 35 farms in Scotland.  So far in 2010, in Scotland, there have been fewer than 30 new cases confirmed but fresh cases are under test.
  • Bleeding Calf Syndrome appears to only affect calves less than a month old. Affected calves can have a persistent fever with bleeding from the nose, gums, ear-tag holes and injection sites. There may even be intestinal bleeding with calves passing dark, tarry dung. 
  • Most affected calves appear to be growing well before showing clinical signs and showed no previous problems. The limited studies carried out so far would suggest that some health aspects, such as bone marrow function, were in fact abnormal from birth. While some calves have recovered most succumb quickly and some die suddenly, before bleeding is seen.
  • If a farmer has calves that they suspect may be showing some of the signs, they should seek veterinary advice immediately. Although under review, SAC are offering a free of charge post mortem service to farmers and their vets who have suspected cases.  
  • Contact details for the Disease Surveillance centres in Scotland are:

Aberdeen Disease Surveillance Centre Tel: 01224 711 177

Ayr Disease Surveillance Centre Tel: 01292 520 318

Dumfries Disease Surveillance Centre Tel: 01387 267 260

Edinburgh Disease Surveillance Centre Tel: 0131 535 3130

Inverness Disease Surveillance Centre Tel: 01463 243 030

Perth Disease Surveillance Centre Tel: 01738 629 167

St Boswells Disease Surveillance Centre Tel: 01835 822 456

Thurso Disease Surveillance Centre Tel: 01847 892 602

  • Various investigations are underway across Europe, including Scotland, to identify the key factors and the causes of this disease. An association with BVD vaccination is one of a number of possible factors being investigated.   No direct causal relationship between BVD vaccination and BNP has been established.   From currently available data, where this syndrome has been reported, it has appeared statistically more frequently, although not exclusively, on farms with a history of vaccination with PregSure BVD, than on farms using other BVD vaccines or those using no BVD vaccinations at all.
  • Pfizer took the decision to voluntarily stop selling PregSure BVD in Germany from 6th April 2010. The company states that this decision applies only to Germany. The reason for selecting Germany alone is due to the much higher incidence of BNP (8 cases per 10,000 doses sold) than other markets (many are <0.05 cases per 10,000 doses sold). PregSure BVD has been available for sale since 2004 in Germany and in the rest of the EU since 2005 and in that time more than 13 million doses have been sold. PregSure BVD continues to be sold in all other markets where it is licensed, including the UK.

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 69/10


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