The British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) is in its 55th year, with the annual congress bringing together a wide range of people interested in cattle medicine. There was a range of topics for delegates to choose from, with four simultaneous presentations: some taking place in a large lecture hall and others as close groups of enthusiasts in a workshop.
A mix of ages provided a range of experiences, whatever the subject. This year there was considerable input from the “younger members of the profession”, which, with a little probing, refers to veterinary surgeons qualified for less than 10 years. Alternatively, a seasoned campaigner considered that anyone under 40 is a “younger vet”!
The BCVA president, Elizabeth Berry, opened congress and outlined the various teams and groups that contribute to the work of the BCVA. During her opening address, she played a video from America where a veterinary surgeon introduced his son and his classmates to the delights of pregnancy diagnosis. Children watched, and when the vet indicated that they had run out of examination gloves but asked if anyone would still like to put their arm in the cow, one little girl enthusiastically offered her services, demonstrating the enthusiasm of veterinary students worldwide.
Colin Mason, the incoming president, presented the case histories of acute clinical outbreaks of Escherichia coli meningitis, arthritis and septicaemia in post-weaned calves that did not respond to treatment. The initial cases were in Scotland, but others have been recorded elsewhere in both dairy and suckler herds. The strain is particularly virulent, and whole genome sequencing has indicated that the cases have a common pathogen that may be a poultry strain. Work is ongoing to identify the entry point of the pathogen to the farm and the point of entry to the animals. Veterinary surgeons with experience in similar cases are invited to contact SRUC Veterinary Services.
Co-design at the heart of the Pathway
Stewart Houston of Assured Food Standards and Richard Watkins from Defra discussed the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway. With the resignation of the Prime Minister hours before the congress, there was a recognised intention for the initiative, but detail may have to await the next administration. Government priorities are said to be the environment, growth and food security, with 45 Defra policy administrators working on the Pathway alongside 135 industry specialists, including 35 veterinary surgeons. With this level of interdisciplinary working, co-design is said to be at the heart of the activity.
It is expected that using the Pathway will ‘make the best farmers even better’ and that farms will be seen that do not have regular veterinary input
Former BCVA president Jonathan Statham and Michael Seals of the National Farmers Union (NFU) explained by video that a farmer applies to the Pathway online and requests a vet visit, which lasts two to three hours. The Pathway funds the activity, and the farmer pays the vet, with animal health and welfare grants available to the farmer. The information collected is anonymised, and Defra prepares a summary.
It was explained that the Pathway is not an alternative to farm assurance and is not a checklist of things to do. Rather, the vet sees the animals and the visit is not limited to the farm office. The vet is expected to gather herd and flock data before the visit, while bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) control is prescriptive for cattle and parasites for sheep. During the discussion, it was indicated that three annual vet visits were included in the Pathway.
Veterinary surgeons are requested to engage with clients so that the Pathway “gets off to a good start”, with further guidance for veterinary surgeons due shortly. It is expected that using the Pathway will “make the best farmers even better” and that farms will be seen that do not have regular veterinary input.
Bovine tuberculosis developments
Anna-Joy Coulter and Nick Lyons discussed progress with the current policy surrounding bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Information about bTB developments is updated on the TB Hub, and there is increasing value in the mapping included in ibTB. The cattle vaccine is expected to provide full protection to one-third of the animals and partial protection to another third, leaving one-third not protected. However, it was not clear whether there were herds with little uptake and herds fully protected, as the figures reflect the overall outcome.
A consultation is due next year to engage veterinary surgeons in ways to deploy the [bTB] vaccine with annual vaccination expected
The DIVA (detecting infected among vaccinated animals) test DST-F (defined antibody skin test – fusion) for bTB is awaited. A consultation is due next year to engage veterinary surgeons in ways to deploy the vaccine with annual vaccination expected. Slaughterhouse cases and non-bovines will be investigated initially utilising the Mycobacterium bovis PCR test with results within three weeks.
It was also explained that the badger vaccine reduces the risk of transmission and infection within a social group. With badgers that are uninfected at the time of vaccination but become infected thereafter, the severity and progress of the disease are reduced.
Local project successes for large scale delivery
Lindsay Heasman of Hurst Animal Health outlined the five-year, £2.27 million Vaccinating East Sussex Badgers (VESBA) project delivered by the Cliffe Veterinary Group. This project will determine the success factors for delivery of large-scale badger vaccination. The level of badger activity is surveyed to include setts, runs and latrines, with peanut pre-baiting and trapping from May to November. Trapped badgers are injected with 1ml BadgerBCG intramuscularly and marked.
In 2021, 16 people were trained to carry out a survey and 17 to cage trap with four lay vaccinators and a total of 77 badgers injected. In 2022, the second year of the project, the area covered was 174km2 out of an area total of 250km2 with 513 badgers vaccinated. Trapping, marking and releasing badgers requires a licence, and veterinary surgeons in the practice have undergone the necessary modules with administration of the POM product carried out under veterinary supervision. A veterinary surgeon is available during the trapping periods in case of emergency welfare care but to date, this service has not been required. There is considerable experience in the country regarding badger handling and vaccination, with over 11,000 badgers trapped in the past 12 years.
Control the controllable
“Control the controllable” is the mantra for the TB Advisory Service (TBAS) during the first four years, explained Sarah Tomlinson. To date, the project has engaged with over 3,200 farmers and carried out over 2,000 free farm visits. In 2021, TBAS was refunded by Defra and Farmcare Solutions and tasked to deliver the service to all TB-susceptible species across the whole of England using TBAS-trained veterinary surgeons.
Visits target things that are in the control of the farmer rather than getting side-tracked by discussions of policy issues. This includes a review of how the farm business would be affected by a TB breakdown and developing a coping plan
The visits target things that are in the control of the farmer rather than getting side-tracked by discussions of policy issues. This includes a review of how the farm business would be affected by a TB breakdown and developing a coping plan. Advice will be based on looking at the disease and is bespoke to the farm. The uptake of advice is then monitored and reviewed after six months. Four recommendations are usually offered. Although only 50 percent of the farmers had completed three out of the four recommendations, the service was rated as excellent or acceptable by most participants.
As ever, the point was strongly made that farmers appreciate being listened to, and their specific situation with the disease recognised with bespoke planning. Advances in on-farm protection against bTB are expected to increase given subsequent visits with ongoing contact between farmer and vet.
|The 2023 BCVA Congress will be at the Telford International Centre from 19 to 21 October 2023.|