Veterinary Investigation Officer, Helen Carty outlines the importance of pen cards at society sales

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Cattle health schemes provide a framework for establishing the disease status of a herd, as well as guidance for reduction, eradication and certification of freedom from disease. The diseases covered by the health schemes are Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), Johne’s disease, Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Leptospirosis and Neospora. Elimination of these diseases from your herd will improve cattle health and production and make your herd more profitable. When selling cattle, health scheme membership gives assurance to potential buyers of the disease status of your stock.

When joining a health scheme, both you and your veterinary surgeon sign to declare that you are following the rules of the scheme and this declaration is also signed on submission of any samples for testing. The rules which are set by the Cattle Health Certification Standards (UK), abbreviated to CHeCS, relate to biosecurity as well as testing procedures.

Example pen card

Example pen card

Pen cards are produced by the health scheme providers and are used at sales to display the both the herd’s disease status and individual blood test results as applicable. These cards must be applied for at least two weeks in advance, or six weeks in advance if blood testing is required. Blood results displayed in pen cards must be from within the last three months.

Individual animals that are not from CHeCS accredited herds can be sold with a pen card however the second column showing herd accreditation boxes will be blank.

When reading a pen card, the diseases are listed in the first column. The TB testing interval of the herd is given beside the TB title. Herd accreditation is shown in the second column. Herds that are accredited for BVD, IBR or Leptospirosis have a white coloured box in this column and the number of years the herd has been accredited is indicated. The herd’s Johne’s or Neospora Disease risk level is shown along with the number of years the herd has been at this level. Only Johne’s or Neospora Disease risk level 1 herds are given a white box. For Johne’s the number of animals tested at the last full herd test is also shown. Only homebred animals can display the Johne’s herd status and Neospora status is relevant for female animals only. The date of the last clear herd TB test is displayed. The CHeCS herd TB score is displayed where applicable. Results of any individual testing are shown in the third column. Individual testing is not performed for Neospora or Johne’s disease because for these diseases, the herd status is more significant.

If not from a BVD accredited herd, BVD antibody and virus testing is required. Pen cards are only issued for animals that are from BVD accredited herds or have tested negative for BVD virus therefore the BVD virus result is not displayed. White boxes indicate that the animal is antibody negative for the disease. Orange boxes indicate animals that are positive for antibodies to IBR or Leptospira hardjo. A green box indicates an animal that is positive for antibodies to BVD. Vaccination details are given in the fourth column.

The mock pen card shown here therefore indicates that the bull being sold at Stirling bull Sales in October 2018 is from a herd that has been accredited free of BVD for six years. The herd has been Johne’s Disease Risk Level 1 for four years and 84 animals were tested at the last annual herd test. The herd is in a yearly TB testing area and the last clear herd test was in November 2017. The herd is not accredited for IBR, Leptospirosis or Neospora and is not in the CHeCS scheme for TB. The bull tested negative for antibodies to IBR in August 2018 and has not been vaccinated.

When buying cattle, as well as considering the disease status of the animals you are buying, you must also take into account the health status of your own herd. If your herd disease status is unknown, you risk infecting naïve animals that you buy when you introduce them to your herd. Discuss quarantine procedures and vaccinations with your vet to ensure you do not put your herd or your bought-in animals at risk.

Helen Carty, BVM&S Cert AVP (Cattle) MRCVS
Premium Cattle Health Scheme