Thursday, 30 March 2017 07:55

Costly disease targeted in research funding round

Written by  Pam Tipa.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy. Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The funding of research into facial eczema (FE) and bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), and better use of antimicrobials and disease management on dairy farms, has been boosted in the latest Sustainable Farming Fund round.

The Facial Eczema action group was granted $395,620 for improved FE management on dairy farms.

The project aims to more effectively prevent FE by providing evidence of the production cost and welfare implications of this disease when it is sub-clinical, and so making the necessary value proposition for change.

The aim is better management of FE, to raise welfare, productivity and sustainability on all farms.

In another project, the BVD Free New Zealand group was granted $584,540 to build its capacity to eradicate the disease. BVD costs the NZ beef and dairy industries at least $150 million annually.

This project will collect field data on the epidemiology and economics of BVD in beef herds. This data will be used to build a national BVD simulation model capable of tracking the disease status of individual animals and herds over time to compare the cost-effectiveness of the current voluntary approach to BVD control against coordinated national eradication programmes.

The Sustainable Health Group development project was granted $485,580.

This project is intended to develop farmer-led groups to initiate and promote change in antimicrobial use and improve disease management on farms -- to reduce and refine antimicrobial use, and help prevent, detect and treat the disease.

Four farmer-led sustainable health groups will be set up in Southland and Otago, chiefly to reduce and rationalise the use of antimicrobials in all farming sectors.

If they succeed, antimicrobial use will drop on enrolled farms, and the hope is that this could be a model for other regions.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says he is pleased to see BVD and FE being tackled in dairy.

“FE is a nasty disease. When cattle ingest the fungus that causes it, it damages their liver and causes chronic wasting and death. Badly damaged liver tissue never regenerates. There is no cure so prevention is the only way of protecting animals.

“This project will… encourage farmers to address the problem before it gets to clinical level and help farmers to know how and when to treat their cattle, ultimately leading to improved animal welfare, productivity and sustainability.”

The project will be led by the Facial Eczema Action group with representation from vets, farmers, researchers and DairyNZ. The project will receive $395,000 over three years and begin in July 2017.

The second project looks at BVD, which about 80% of NZ’s dairy and beef herds have been exposed to. Infection can cause reproductive losses, an increase in general disease, reduced growth rates and lower milk production.

Estimates put the annual losses for dairy farmers at over $100 million.

“This project will include identification of key transmission pathways, development of a business case for coordinated national BVD control and the building of a national model to track BVD status of individual animals and herds over time,” says Guy.

This is the first time a BVD project has been funded by the Sustainable Farming Fund. A total of $585,000 will be provided over three years and the project will be led by BVD Free NZ and will begin in July 2017.

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