Animal healthcare experts are highlighting the need to tackle a bovine disease.

Mycoplasma bovis is a disease that can lead to further complications in cows, and can be found all over the country, including Dorset.

The condition can lead to - among other problems - respiratory disease, ear infections, and, in older cows, arthritis, mastitis and pneumonia.

Tim Geraghty, centre manager at the SRUC Aberdeen Disease Surveillance Centre, said: "We have definitely been diagnosing more M. Bovis in the past five years, and it’s pretty widespread across the country in both dairy and beef systems. This may be due to a genuine increase in M. Bovis, or reflect an increased awareness of the disease by vets and farmers, along with improved diagnostic tests."

He added that the disease often does not respond to common antibiotics.

"The pathogen doesn’t have a cell wall. A lot of our antibiotics target the cell wall so they are going to be ineffective straight away.

"We need to prioritise funding as an industry, as there are too many unknowns,” he explains. “We need to know how prevalent it is across the country, with random sampling of herds. And there is probably strain variation, which we don’t know much about. I’d also like to see a risk-based trading scheme and certification programme; that would be very helpful."

"If you’re buying in stock select the herd of origin carefully to ensure there’s no history of clinical problems. Buy as few animals as you need and from as few sources as possible."

Jon Reader, RCVS Recognised Specialist in Cattle Health and Production and Director at Synergy Farm Health in Evershot said that while there will be herds with the condition in Dorset, the county is not overrepresented with the problem.

In a recent newsletter for Synergy Farm Health, Jon said that maintaining a good herd policy is the best way of reducing the risk of a herd becoming infected.

He also clarified that Mycoplasma bovis should not be confused with Mycobacterium bovis, which causes TB in cows - a far more serious condition.