24 Sep 2009

Viral disease in cattle eliminated

2:07 pm on 24 September 2009

The dairy industry says it's been able to eliminate an infectious cattle disease from its herds, through the co-operation of farmers and processing companies.

It's been running a control scheme since 1997 for Enzootic Bovine Leukosis (EBL), a viral disease that may cause cancer in cattle.

Through milk testing and culling infected animals, reduce herd infection rates have been reduced from nearly 10% in 1997 to the point where no EBL infected dairy herds were detected last season.

The scheme has been run by farmer-owned co-operative Livestock Improvement (LIC), which also carried out the testing.

Strategy and growth general manager David Hemara says eradicating the disease is important for the economy as well as for animal health, since other countries are already EBL free.

The co-operative says while there is little or no evidence of the viral disease in beef herds, beef bulls brought into dairy herds for mating still pose a potential risk, although they can be tested beforehand.