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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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What happens when IBR is detected in my herd?

IBR testing as part of the NBWS (National Beef Welfare Scheme) will, in addition to providing information to each farmer about their own herd, provide parallel data in respect of suckler herds, which will “inform a snapshot” of IBR disease in the national herd and help inform future national policy actions.

That is according to the DAFM (Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine), which opened the scheme to applications from suckler farmers on Thursday, August 3rd, 2023.

IBR testing is action one in the new scheme, which aims to further increase the economic efficiency of and enhance animal health and husbandry on Irish suckler farms.

According to Teagasc research, while limited data is available for suckler herds, the average cost of IBR to suckler farms is estimated to be in the region of €350-€735/farm, which researchers say equates to a loss of some €37 million nationally every year.

The DAFM has stated that the fundamental to controlling IBR is knowing the infection status of your herd.

Detecting IBR: What tests are available?

The virus can be detected within a short period of 10-days, in animals undergoing a primary infection or reactivation in latently infected animals.

Swabs are obtained from the nose, eye, throat, or tissue from the respiratory system – such as the trachea and lungs. They can be tested using different methods, but according to the DAFM, the fastest and more widely available is PRC.

For indirect antibody detection, the DAFM says: “When the animal’s immune system is activated as a response to the BoHV-1 infection or vaccination, antibodies are released and will reach detectable levels 10-35 days after infections”.

“Infected animals can remain antibody positive for years or even for life. Antibody levels in response to vaccination can vary depending on the vaccine type, the animal’s age and other factors. Antibodies can be detected in blood and milk.”

The DAFM goes on to highlight that there are different control measures when IBR is detected in a herd, and the main ones include:

  • Biosecurity;
  • Selective culling or isolation of positives;
  • Vaccination.
Ibr Investigate
Source – Animal Health Ireland

Payment rates for IBR testing:

  • Between 2-6 animals (inclusive) – €120/herd;
  • Between 7-10 animals (inclusive) – €180;
  • Between 11-15 animals (inclusive) – €250;
  • Between 16-20 animals (inclusive) – €300.

If farmers do not complete IBR testing or where undertake insufficient samples are obtained, which is, as outlined above, a mandatory action, no payment will issue for this action.

In addition, the DAFM will enforce a 10% penalty of the overall payment that the participant would have received had both actions been complied with.

IBR testing

According to the DAFM, the detection of IBR antibodies is a “useful and cost-effective” tool to monitor and control IBR disease.

It provides, the scheme’s terms and conditions outline, the farmer with information in respect of his/her own herd, as to the infection status of the herd, providing him/her with the knowledge to better manage risk.

AHI has identified four steps in controlling IBR in cattle:

  • Plan;
  • Investigate;
  • Control;
  • Monitor.

In the scheme’s terms and conditions, the DAFM states “IBR vaccination should only be used in a herd when it is clear that the herd is infected with IBR”.

“In addition, vaccination should be used as part of a planned disease control programme to ensure that the correct animals are vaccinated and that appropriate IBR control measures, depending on the levels of IBR in the herd, are implemented.”

“Partial vaccine of a herd, in the absence of understanding the actual infection status of the herd, does not contribute strategically to the control of an IBR risk and may give a false sense of security to purchases in respect of animal traded,” the DAFM added.

“This action supports the farmer investment in herd health, providing farmers and their vets with information that on how best to manage IBR infection in their herd.”

Animal Health Ireland, has stated, in an information leaflet on IBR, “that if you are vaccinating, do not vaccinate potential AI sires for IBR”.

“Vaccinated animals will have IBR antibodies and all vaccinated bulls will fail the entry test.”

“Care should be taken to avoid accidental exposure of these calves to vaccinal virus, e.g. through contaminated vaccinating equipment.”

“Animals that have antibodies following infection or vaccination (with conventional or marker vaccines) against IBR cannot enter semen collection centres in Ireland,” the leaflet added.

Also, according to AHI, using the appropriate (gE) test, it is possible to distinguish infected from vaccinated animals, allowing the success of a control plan to be monitored.

Note: This information is a guide only. Always seek the advice of your veterinary practitioner from farm-specific advice.

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