The Republic of Ireland has a national eradication programme for bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDv) based on tissue-tag testing of calves to identify persistently infected animals (PIs). It has been proposed that serological testing of a sample of home-bred young stock would be a more cost effective surveillance mechanism than continued tissue-tag testing in herds which have previously been found to be BVD-free. These animals would have to be at least 6 months of age to avoid interference from maternal antibodies in test results. To examine the potential practicality of this system, we identified birth profiles and movements of calves born in Ireland during 2014 and 2015. We found that birth profiles for both beef and dairy animals were more evenly distributed throughout the year than often assumed, which should be borne in mind when evaluating the suitability of a single round of serological testing in the autumn for every herd. A large amount of movement was identified, with approximately 43% of calves experiencing a move before they reached 10 months of age, including moves to another Irish herd, to a knackery, to export, or to slaughter. Approximately 19% of calves had moved to other breeding herds in Ireland within this period. There were distinct patterns according to movement type, month of birth and herd type. The majority of herds moved either all or none of their calves in the first 10 months of life. These results indicate that young stock serological testing is unlikely to be an appropriate surveillance mechanism for all BVDv-free herds, as (i) many herds would not be able to supply a large enough sample of suitably aged home-bred young stock at a single point in time and (ii) PIs which would have been picked up by tissue-tag testing soon after birth would have moved from their home herd, to infect other herds, before serological testing could be conducted.
Keywords: BVD; Bovine; Cattle movement; Eradication; Serological testing; Serosurveillance; Tissue-tag testing.
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