Certain infectious diseases reduce the efficiency of production and adversely affect animal welfare in both dairy and beef cattle. The presence of some of these diseases within the national herd may also compromise consumer confidence in the final product. The major way infectious disease is introduced to a cattle herd is animal movement, but many breeders continue to purchase high value breeding stock of unknown health status. Indeed even the purely commercial beef herd must buy breeding bulls.
Health schemes offer a way to overcome these disease problems. Essentially a health scheme is a set of management rules and a disease testing programme which shows whether or not a particular disease is present in the herd. It also offers a way to control and eliminate the disease from the herd that not only improves the productivity of the herd but also allows the sale of breeding animals known to be free of the disease in question.
The Premium Cattle Health Scheme (PCHS) focuses on four diseases:
- Bovine Virus Diarrhoea (BVD)
- Johne's disease
- Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR)
This reflects the importance of these diseases not only within this country but also worldwide. The Scandinavian countries have already successfully taken steps to eradicate BVD from their national herd. Australia, Canada and the USA have well established Johne's disease herd programmes and Switzerland, Denmark, Finland and Sweden have eradicated IBR while other countries have started to do so. If we fail to follow, we will find our cattle are of an inferior health status and will not be saleable in these countries.
The Scheme Objectives
- To eliminate specific diseases from cattle herds
- To identify herds free of specific diseases and to provide breeding cattle of certified health status
- To prevent the introduction of specific diseases to herds free of the diseases
- To monitor changes in disease status to allow timely control or preventive action to be taken.