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New farmer educational campaign highlights IBR barrier to herd productivity


Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) has become a barrier to herd productivity on many farms, but a new educational campaign from vet practices aims to help beef and dairy producers overcome this disease obstacle.

IBR is a hidden disease that spreads rapidly throughout a herd. Unfortunately symptoms are often vague sometimes some dull and off colour animals are the only visible sign but the disease really puts a brake on cows reaching optimum performance levels, points out Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health livestock veterinary adviser Paul Williams MRCVS.

According to the Intervet/Schering-Plough national BeefCheck and DairyCheck diagnostic services, over 72% of UK herds now test positive for IBR.

We know that IBR is now endemic in the UK cattle population and we also know that the disease has the potential to cut annual milk yield by 173 litres or cause a four week delay in beef cattle reaching slaughter weight. Thats an awful lot of production potential lost for infected herds, Paul Williams says.

This autumn Intervet/Schering-Plough is driving a new IBR disease awareness campaign through farm animal vet practices. It highlights the hidden nature of the disease, the importance of diagnosis and the value of vaccination.

Diagnosis is the only certain way to determine a herds disease status. If you suspect depressed herd performance, IBR may be at the root of the problem, but a straightforward bulk milk or blood test available from your vet will determine the true IBR status of your herd. This will then enable you to decide on the most appropriate course of action to protect your herd and help control the spread of the disease.

Paul Williams explains that IBR is a viral disease caused by bovine herpesvirus 1 (BHV-1). It manifests itself in cattle in a similar way to the cold sore virus in humans; in that once animals have been exposed to infection, they usually remain carriers for life.

Cows never rid themselves of the virus and it remains dormant in the animal until stress factors such as calving, stock movements or extremes of weather trigger recurrence of the clinical signs of the disease and further shedding of the virus.

Once IBR is in a herd, any uninfected cattle coming onto the farm will sooner or later come into contact with a cow that is shedding virus and so the disease cycle continues. This is why its so important to put a control programme in place, he stresses.

Fortunately, vaccination can help enormously to reduce circulation of IBR virus within a herd and cut the significant costs associated with infection. Control of the disease is quite straightforward with a single dose of Bovilis IBR Marker live administered intra-nasally or intra-muscularly from two weeks of age. Vaccination with a live IBR vaccine has proved to be a very successful way of controlling the disease both in Continental Europe for eradication schemes and in the UK where the focus is on clinical disease management.

Vaccination can safely be used in pregnant animals, and to minimise viral shedding a booster is required every six months, Paul Williams says

Farmers concerned about IBR should contact their vet for further disease information and details of the subsidised diagnostic support schemes available.

About Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health
Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, based in Boxmeer, the Netherlands, is focused on the research, development, manufacturing and marketing of animal health products. The company offers customers one of the broadest, most innovative animal health portfolios, spanning products to support performance and to prevent, treat and control disease in all major farm and companion animal species. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health; subsidiaries of Merck & Co. Inc., Whitehouse Station NJ, USA. For more information, visit

About Merck
Today’s Merck is working to help the world be well. Through our medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer and animal products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching programs that donate and deliver our products to the people who need them. Merck. Be Well. For more information, visit

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